Affiliation: Natchaug Hospital, 189 Storrs Road, PO Box 260, Mansfield Center, CT 06250-0260, USA.
Background: Use of computer technologies, whether online or playing video games, can pose significant and inherent mental health risks for children and adolescents. Parents are in the best position to influence and control their child’s computer experiences and habits, and so it is the duty of mental health providers to inform parents about these risks and how they can be mitigated.
Method: This article reviews trends in media use and mental health implications and outlines various steps that parents can take to prevent harmful aspects of such use. Practical challenges and solutions are discussed.
Results: Many parents are unaware of what their children are doing online and the steps they can take to help keep them safe. Children do respond positively to parental monitoring, although this is often a source of conflict. Both external methods, such as placing controls on electronic devices and limiting access, as well as communication with children about safe and healthy use of electronic media are effective.
Conclusions: Parents should monitor and as necessary restrict the amount and the content of computer use their children engage in. Parents should teach their children online etiquette and warn them about online risks including sexting and cyberbullying, and watch for signs of such problems.