The important thing is to ensure that our children understand that while the internet is an excellent resource it also poses dangers and risks.
Our children are growing up in a world that is dominated and supercharged by technology. When they start school there is a strong chance that the “blackboard” is now an interactive whiteboard instead, and technology and ICT play an increasingly significant and transformative role in education. The internet can be an amazing resource for knowledge, connectivity, communication and collaboration when children are of an appropriate age and know how to use it safely.
A child’s first experience of the internet may be via a teacher who consults a particular website or resource during the learning experience. For other children, it may be through an app like YouTubeKids. The important thing is to ensure that our children understand that while the internet is an excellent resource it also poses dangers and risks. So as parents and guardians, how do we teach our children about these while also encouraging responsible use of a resource that is so prominent in everyday modern life?
1. If you allow your child to use an app like YouTube (many parents allow it on long car journeys or in waiting rooms etc) ensure that what they are watching is appropriate.
For younger children, YouTubeKids is a more appropriate platform as all videos are deemed to be kid friendly in nature. Alternatively, when using the computer use YouTubeKids.com or ‘Restricted’ mode. For more on YouTube, click here.
2. Try to encourage that video game use occurs somewhere close to you in the home.
Many games have interactive elements which involve communicating with other players, often using different names or playing anonymously. It is important to be able to monitor what is being said and who is saying it as it can be very dangerous. CyberSafeIreland’s most recent annual report (2018) found that 43% of children are communicating regularly with strangers online.
3. Regularly talk about the issue of bullying and how prominent it is online.
While social media apps can be great, they also pose a huge risk. As Papyrus’ chilling video points out, people will say things online that they would never say to a person’s face when they don't have to see the other person’s reaction or pain. Try to promote positive use of these apps (when the child is of a suitable age) and reiterate an open door policy if your child is ever on the receiving end of anything of a bullying nature while online: it is essential they feel they can come to you and share.
4. Explain the scale of the internet, and the anonymity it enables
Explain that for various reasons people who use it are not always who they say they are. Explain the importance of not talking to strangers, accepting follow requests from unknown people, talking privately to people, and how crucial it is to never send images or videos of yourself. While you don’t want to scare your child it is important that they know about predators, and the dos and don'ts that will help protect them from these people. You wouldn't send them to the park or the shops without being sure they knew of the risks of crossing the road or talking to strangers: why is being online different?
5. Talk about screen time, but focus on quality over quantity - what is your child actually doing when online? Set limits.
While setting these parameters it is a good idea to explain to your children the reasons behind it. Too much screen use can affect their mood, quality of sleep, performance at school, participation in sports//activities and all of the friendships and relationships in their lives. If a child understands that there is a “why” they might just accept it more willingly. A life with balance in all areas is the key.