Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Net is going to get bigger in your children's life. Get webwise so you can help them find things, and make judgements about where they are going for help.

Safety first. A content filter is essential - or "Freddy Fry, the Science Guy" can turn out to be "Swervy Merv, the Paedophile Perve". AOL UK offers in-built parental controls. Other providers offer add-on options (although if children are e-mailing online teachers, make sure they can be e-mailed back). Teach your children Web safety rules. Childnet International (www.childnet- has further information.

Encourage them to stick to reputable UK education sites, where they will find good, vetted, easily-accessed and specifically-targeted help. Roaming through the research papers of Canadian universities does nothing for anyone's GCSE homework.

Watch online costs. Even off-peak telephone charges mount up quickly. Check out new cost-saving access deals, and discuss time limits for online homework to avoid family strife.

Supervise what children are up to. An earnest quest for help on the imagery of Macbeth at 7pm can have drifted into a basketball chat room by quarter past.

Encourage children to think before reaching for the mouse. What is it that they need to know? How much do they need to know about it? When do they need to know it by? What's a sensible search strategy? Is it something to ask a virtual teacher, or will the answer be more readily available elsewhere? And, of course, could it be found in a good old-fashioned book?