Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. You Tube. Search engines. Online Games.

There are so many things online these days that grab not only our attention, but our children’s attentions.

It is easy for children to spend more time than necessary online. They get caught up in a game or searching the web, and before we know it, they have spent hours on the computer.

Technology is a good thing. It helps us keep in touch with family members who live far from us, or friends we haven’t seen in a while.

For some, such as authors, a great deal of time is needed on the computer for research and writing. We now use every aspect of the internet to spread the Gospel and participate in Pope John Paul’s New Evangelization. The internet is becoming a necessity.

However, as with all good things, it is important to remember the all important word: balance.

If we notice our children are beginning to spend too much time online (via computer, phone, Kindle/Nooks, etc), then we need to take a step back and see if they are over using the internet.

Are they neglecting their regular duties or chores? Is homework being pushed aside? Is the sentence “You’re always on the computer” a top ten saying in your home? Have your children procrastinated on a recent project that was due?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes" then it just may be time to give the internet a “Time Out.”

Here are some suggestions for giving the internet a healthy Time Out in your home:

Set a reasonable time limit.

This can also help curve arguments among siblings about whose turn it is to use the computer.  Depending on how many siblings your children have, it may be necessary to limit turns to 20 minutes at a time. Keep a timer handy to keep track.

Keep the computer in a central location.

Children will be less likely to spend more time online (and likely accessing inappropriate material) if they know their content can easily be seen.

Get involved.

Be sure your children are involved in other activities besides the internet.  Do they like sports? Dance? Acting? Singing? Writing? There are so many things that our children can choose from to spend their free time.

Do a spontaneous Game Night.

This works especially well on the weekends. Get a favorite family game, popcorn and a drink and play a real life game together instead of a virtual game alone.

Encourage children to call their friends...

...instead of texting or chatting.

Get outside.

Dust off the bikes or soccer ball. Referee a race for the children.

Pull out some crafts.

Have the kids paint a picture or make a bracelet for a friend.

See if they are interested in volunteering.

Maybe they could help the religious education teachers at your parish or sing in the choir.

What else?

There are so many things our children can do instead of surfing the internet.

So, go on and do something different. Give the internet a Time Out!

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2012 Jennifer Gladen