Today’s kids only know life with the Internet and its related services. For them, it will replace the prior generation’s television, public library and telephone as the way to access entertainment, read, research and communicate. Current technology embedded in a mobile device equals potentially unlimited access to the world and its content. It will be nearly impossible to escape as both the business and educational communities increasingly leverage it to bring products and services to everyone including our kids.
This blog is the second in a three-part series, Keeping Kids Safe Online. This installment focuses on kids under the age of 10; broken down into sub-groups as your child’s development matches the level of potential access to Internet content as well as their ability to navigate technology tools.
Kids Under Five
This group is wide-eyed and will believe everything that is put in front of them, taking it at face-value. They do not possess the critical thinking skills to question things. If you think this is too young for interacting with the Internet, you are wrong. Many pre-schools today are using it to supplement their learning curriculum as well as prepare kids for kindergarten and the technology they will encounter in school. At this age, no child should be using technology without parental supervision.
There are wonderful tools available to help our youngest kids meet key developmental milestones. They should be accessing them with the convenience of iPad, tablet or mobile device while sitting with you. There are a plethora of age-appropriate games and educational programs well-suited for this entry-level age and accessing them provides an opportunity for you to learn together.
School Age Kids
As our kids enter kindergarten and move through elementary school, things can start to get challenging for both parents and children. At this age, children are developing in leaps and bounds, exhibiting and wanting independence. They are growing extremely capable with daily life activities, including their use of technology. For many parents it seems like one day, they will act like a toddler and they next a pre-teen. Parents need to be flexible with the Internet monitoring as they move through this stage of development.
Here are some things to do:
- Start by having Internet usage done in an open area where kids can be both actively and passively supervised.
- Discuss privacy with your child in age appropriate ways. Remember all those talks about “stranger danger”? The Internet is nothing but strangers.
- Speak with your child’s school about their in-school, Internet-related learning activities and become familiar with your school’s policy for monitoring and securing kids access on school-issued devices.
- Use kid-friendly Internet search engines
- Install parental control software on your computer/mobile device to monitor Internet usage, control access to applications and limit use based on amount of time or time of day.
For the kids closer to 10, and moving into those tween years, the number of online threats grows as social media, online gaming and personal Internet-connect devices become the focus.
Things to remember and remind your kids:
- Never use your child’s identity or personal information when creating an online profile.
- Their online profile, username and password is private information. It should be shared with you, as their parent, but not shared with a friend, neither online nor IRL (in real life).
- Companies are improving their child controls on their application. Be sure to educate yourself about these controls and use them!
- Set the age-appropriate content filtering to the most-restrictive level.
- You will determine what’s appropriate for your family and set very clear boundaries with consequences if those boundaries are not followed.
The Internet is a wonderful learning tool to help children discover our world as well as absorb and master their educational skills. However, it is still a public place filled with strangers and people doing nefarious things. You are their parent, their protector, their advocate, their everything. It is important to determine what role the Internet will play in your child’s live and development and be ready to provide the appropriate level of oversight and protection.