Keeping the Net Generation (and their parents) Safe

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

The National Psychologist

July/August 2000


School is out for the summer and children are already bored. The Net Generation is the first to be born into a world of omnipresent technology. Using their Game Boys, portable CD players, cellphones, and more, children are almost never without their technology.

In our research, we have found that many parents are ecstatic about technology’s emerging role as the perfect babysitter. You only have to watch children stare transfixed at the television set or rapidly press the buttons on their handheld games to know that technology's "Holding Power" has captured them.

By now, only a few weeks into summer, many children are spending their days staring at and interacting with technology. What can you do to help your clients and their children stay healthy and sane with all the surrounding technology?

First, families must set limits on the use of technology. Here's a reasonable plan. You tell a child or teenager, "If you use technology for an hour, then you must do a social or physical activity without technology for an hour." A reasonable limit is 1-2 hours. Don’t just inform them that time is up. You will hear, “Just a minute, I need to finish what I am doing.” The drawing power of computer games is that you are never “finished.” Set a timer to provide a 5-10 minute warning signal. Make sure that the child or teen understands that the warning signal says it is time to finish.

Second, recognize that most children know more about technology than their parents. This often leads to parents accepting any technology use and not questioning the fit with their child’s developmental level. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Discuss any new technology acquisition or use with the whole family. Talk about its benefits and any potential downsides. This goes for mom and dad, too! It is not just children who are at risk.
  2. Any technology should be used in open sight. No computers, telephones, game boys, and televisions behind closed doors.
  3. Check often what the children are doing with their technology. Monitor their use and let them know that you are doing so.
  4. Make sure that television programming, videos, computer software and Internet use are developmentally appropriate. Television, videos and software have age ratings. The Internet can be filtered according to a child's developmental level. AOL, for example, has "parental controls" where the parent designates what the child may do with e-mail, chat and surfing.

Game software is a big business. Steer children away from software with excessive violence. Research has shown a relationship between playing violent software and aggressive behavior.

My capable assistant software reviewers, Christopher (age 12) and Kaylee (age 9) reviewed many games. Here are their comments (Note: most games come in both Mac and PC format on the same CD-Rom):


Go to http://www.superkids.com/ for more choices. To get the best price online, go to http://www.mysimon.com/. Enjoy!


Copyright, 2000, The National Psychologist. Reprinted with permission. The National Psychologist is a privately-owned bimonthly newspaper which may be purchased for $30 a year. Write or call: TNP, 6100 Channingway Blvd., Suite 303, Columbus, OH 43232; telephone: 614.861.1999 or fax with Visa or MC to 614.861.1996.