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7 Tips for Guiding Our Children On the Internet

We are relying on the internet more than ever now with many of our children schooling or just stuck at home. So, we’ve turned to some seasoned homeschoolers for advise about how to guide our children with their internet use. Here are Shaykh Ismail Kamdar’s guidelines, as printed in Fitra Journal.

Many of us choose to homeschool our children as a means of protecting them from the harmful elements of society, and from bad company. Yet in the back of our minds there remains a worry: What about the bad elements of society and bad company they can access online?

Dealing with the internet and its usage is a difficult topic for Muslims parents. On one hand, the internet is full of amazing learning websites, documentaries, educational YouTube videos, and Islamic websites, and is also a great way to stay in contact with family and friends.

But then there is the dark side that all parents are aware of. There are the pornographic websites, the cyberbullying, the extremist websites that entice young Muslims to violence, and many other things that parents wish didn’t exist. But they do, and we need to be practical
in finding a solution to dealing with it.

Knowing about the dark net has raised great concern from parents. Do we allow our children to use the internet? At what age do we allow it? How do we restrict their access to unfavorable websites? What do we do if we catch a teenager on an immoral website? I hope to answer in
this article these and many more dilemmas.

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The Islamic Ruling on the Internet

Before we begin, it is important to understand the Islamic ruling on using the internet. The internet is a tool, and like all other tools, the ruling is based on its usage and not the tool itself. If the internet is used for halal and beneficial purposes, it is permissible. In fact, using the internet can even be ibaadah when used as a means of dawah and spreading Islamic knowledge.

However, when the internet is misused to commit any type of sin, then its usage becomes a sin for that moment only. To make a mass ruling that people should not use the internet at all goes against primary principles of Fiqh which include, “The original rule of a thing is permissibility” and that “The religion is practical.” Therefore, we can conclude that using the internet is permissible, and it is only prohibited when it is being used for unIslamic reasons.

Now that we understand the ruling on using the internet, here are a few practical steps for helping your children learn to use it responsibly:

1 – Teach them to be responsible in every aspect of their lives

Responsibility is not just related to the internet. As Muslim parents, it is our duty to teach our children to be responsible. We can do this by teaching them about the Afterlife and accountability for their deeds. We can also do this by giving them responsibilities from a young age, instead of spoiling them.

A responsible character should be part of who they are, in person as well as online, and is the first step to responsible usage of the internet.

2 – Discuss with them openly the dangers of the internet

Parents need to be transparent with their children about the dangers of anything. Of course, conversations need to be kept age appropriate. But children need to know that bad things exist on the internet, just like anywhere else, and they need to know about the many ways in which these websites can harm them.

An informed child is less likely to fall into any online traps, especially if they are aware of why something is bad and the harm it can cause to them.

3 – Have clear rules, policies, expectations and repercussions

Communication is key to discipline. If you want your children to follow your rules, then these rules need to be very clear. Parents must set age-appropriate rules and policies for internet usage. Such rules could include limiting internet time and data consumption, and allowing
parents to occasionally check their devices to monitor usage.

Expectations also need to be very clear. Let your child know that you are trusting him/her with the internet and expect them to use it only for permissible things. Likewise, the repercussions of not meeting expectations and violating the rules should be clear and upheld. Some suggested repercussions include confiscation of devices, suspension of internet privileges, or limiting internet usage to study purposes only.

4 – For younger children, keep internet devices in the open

Children who are under the age of twelve do not need their own mobile devices or internet devices in their bedrooms. For older children, it can be debated either way. Younger children should be given access to the internet via family computers which are kept in a place where
parents can monitor their usage.

This could mean having the computer set up in the lounge, study, or kitchen, but not in the child’s private bedroom. This will help keep them from straying to incorrect websites. With older kids, parents need to have serious conversations with each other about when it would be appropriate to give them their own mobile phones or access to private devices.

Eventually, as they grow you will need to start trusting them more and letting them go. I will discuss this point in more details in point six.

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