First off i want to start by giving credit to telegraph.co.uk for posting this surprisingly useful and level headed parenting guide, good job :). This guide was put together by Dr. Tanya Byron who is known for working on such BBC programmes as The House of Tiny Tearaways, and she is a clinical psychologist as well. So without further ado here is her guide.
1) Don't panic...
Technology has never moved at a faster pace, so it's inevitable that children are increasingly playing more sophisticated games than their parents ever did, and using the internet much more effectively. But the most important thing to remember is that the web is a powerful tool that is best used for entertainment and education: there's no need to treat time spent on it, or playing video games, with suspicion.
2)...but be practical
Of course, there are dangers online just as there are at home or in real life. Make sure you know where children are going online, just as you would make sure you know who they're playing with. Ask what websites they're visiting, what their appeal is, and why they like the video games they play. Make sure the computer or console is in a public place, such as the living room or kitchen, so you can see what's going on. This will reduce the temptation for young people to shut the door on the pleasures of the real world, too. And you might even consider Jacqueline Wilson's novel Girl in Tears as a starting point for talking about computers with your children.
3) Encourage the effective use of technology...
It's now almost universally accepted that the use of computers and even video games is beneficial to a child's development. Not only will they need to know how to use technology when they're older, but they can also offer a relatively safe opportunity to develop coordination and even meet new people. Pilot schemes in schools have used iPods and Nintendo DSs, so it could be worth talking to teachers about what they're already using in your child's school.
4)...but make sure you understand it
Some video games teach children important skills, from cooperation to patience, but others really are just about gorily blowing other people's heads off. The more you understand about which games your child uses, the more you'll be able to guide their choices. If they want to join a social network to talk to their friends, try steering them towards specifically child-friendly ones such as clubpenguin.com or the BBC's online game Adventure Rock, and away from, say, Facebook or Myspace, where anyone can join.
5) Use built-in parental controls
Almost all internet browsers now have effective parental controls; Microsoft's Xbox 360 lets you play games over the web or a network, but if you're worried about the vagaries of the internet or stranger danger online, these features can easily be disabled.
6) Investigate special protective software
Several manufacturers sell software that is designed to limit what can be done on a computer. Cyberpatrol.com offers you the chance to limit time and type of web access, for instance, and an awful lot more too. McAfee and Norton make equivalent versions, too, but be aware that the walled garden approach can always be circumvented by using another computer, so the investment might not prove worthwhile.
7) Don't forget the mobile phone
The latest watches - never mind mobile phones - have more computing power than was used in getting Neil Armstrong to the Moon. Phones are increasingly able to access the internet, take high-quality videos and pictures and play music. And although the biggest risk remains that it will get lost or stolen, it's always worth remembering that many children are bullied by text messages or phone calls, too. Try to encourage responsible use, just as you would with a PC.
8 ) Protect your child's online identity
Adults should know by now that signing up to a website usually involves a choice about how much personal data you want to give out, and how much you want to make public. Try to explain to your children, too, that they can use pseudonyms, and that they shouldn't ever tell strangers they meet online too much about themselves.
9) Remember that there is real danger out there
There's been a huge amount of media coverage of a small number of incidents of young people being 'groomed' online by people who have subsequently ended up in prison. Much of the internet offers anonymity which makes such criminal activity more possible. If you think that something really is amiss, talk first to your children, but don't dismiss as harmless behaviour online that would be really suspicious in person.
10) And finally: be realistic
Remember that prohibition simply won't work. Your children will use computers and games consoles, even if it's at school or at friends' houses. If you understand what's worthwhile, what's harmful and how to balance risks, both you and your children will be able to get a lot more out of the web.