Computer Limits and First Steps

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    Q : Our desktop computer is in a family-access area. Now my 12-year-old has inherited a laptop, which she has started taking to her bedroom. How should we go about setting limits?

    A While your daughter is reaching an age where, developmentally, she is going to become more independent and spend less time interacting with her parents, you still want to be aware of how her time is spent and stay in control as her parent. Unfortunately, with technology as it is today, children or teenagers can be exposed to inappropriate and sometimes, even dangerous situations.

    First, check in with your daughter and see how she uses the laptop. If she mentions websites she visits or games she plays, ask her to show them to you. If you haven’t already, I would also have a conversation with her about Internet etiquette and safety. For example, instruct her to never give identifying information out to another person, to not share passwords with friends, and to be careful of what she downloads.

    Is your daughter using any social networking sites? This requires another level of monitoring from you – including knowing her account passwords. Some other limits you may want to consider are the amount of time each day she can be on the laptop, and its location when recharging. The tricky part of these conversations will be that you don’t want your child to believe you don’t trust her, but rather that you still need to be involved and set reasonable limits. I would include her in the decisions as much as you can. She may have some ideas that both of you are comfortable with for the laptop use. But ultimately, as the parent, you will have the final say on the new laptop rules. As she matures and proves her trustworthiness with the laptop, you can consider adjusting the rules to give her more independence.

    Q : Our little girl just turned one and really doesn’t seem to be interested in walking. We’re surrounded by early walkers at play-group. What’s normal?

    A Normal with babies and toddlers is not easily defined. Typically, children can start walking anywhere from 9 to 17 months, with the average being right around 12 months. Looking at your child’s development might prove more helpful than trying to determine what is normal. Does your little girl stand while holding onto something? Can she pull herself up and cruise on a couch or a low table? If your child is performing these tasks, walking will probably soon follow. It may be helpful to provide her with ample opportunities to get her feet down on the ground and move. Hold her hands as she walks around in the backyard and encourage her to stand and reach for items of interest. Developmentally, walking is a complex task with several components that must be mastered prior to independent walking. It may appear that other children master these tasks overnight, but children develop on different schedules. If you can learn how to avoid comparing your child to others now, both you and your child will be happier. Your pediatrician can also be a resource if you have concerns about your child’s development.