What You Need To Do To Protect Your Kids Online

2

By Dan Zwolenski

For today’s kids, the Internet is full of endless promise and potential, an exciting place to explore, learn, create, and share. For parents, however, the Internet can be a place full of threats to children’s safety and privacy. It’s tempting to set up blocks and filters to stop children from exploring, but it won’t be long before these blocks are circumvented. Some of the best “hackers” I know are my 10 year old nephews who constantly find new ways to subvert the family firewall to get access to blocked content. The more it gets locked down, the more interested they are in finding ways around it!

But there’s no reason to panic, because even though the internet presents some risks, it is also a great place to explore, play, share and, most importantly, learn.

These are my top tips for developing children that are mindful, safe and considered with their online life.

  1. Start  a Discussion

With a full 95% of teens aged 12-17 now online it’s important to realise the internet is here to stay. The best way to deal with this, as with many parenting challenges, is through open and consistent conversation. With the internet being such an important part of our own adult lives, it shouldn’t present too much of a challenge to get things started – merely mention something you saw of note today and steer the conversation around to what your child might be doing online and anything they might’ve seen or heard which they’d like to discuss.

Technology has created something of a role reversal for parents, it is one of the few areas in life where kids are often more skilled than their parents. Let’s face it, when it comes time to set up that new Apple TV, it’s usually the kids we turn to for help.

  1. Be Involved

One pillar of good internet parenting is to be involved. Treat screentime in the same way you would, say, reading a book or playing in the backyard – don’t merely toss the iPad to your child for some peace and quiet, sit down with them and explore what interests them. Not only is this a great way to bond over your child’s interests, it’s also a great way to ensure the content they’re viewing is appropriate. Indeed, studies showed the vast majority of kids would change their internet behaviour when their parents were watching.

  1. Talk to other parents

Good cyber-parenting isn’t a solo undertaking. Kids are viewing internet content on an ever-growing number of devices, and while most use still takes place at home, increasing numbers are using technology at school and at a friends’ house, away from direct parental supervision. This means you should chat through challenges, ideas and concerns with your child’s friends’ parents to make sure you’re all on the same page. Truth is, bad internet practices can quickly spread amongst a group of friends.

  1. Set boundaries

Screen time has benefits, such as encouraging kids to write more, however, like many things in life you need to be careful of too much of a good thing. For example, a 2015 Cambridge University study found that an extra hour over and above the average amount of screen time for teenagers could lead to their GCSE results falling by 2 grades. Some examples of healthy boundaries to set could be; set times where devices are/aren’t acceptable, certain devices only allowed to be used in certain rooms (communal living spaces for example) or no devices during meal times.

  1. Screen free time before bed

This is so tempting for kids and adults alike. One last email, one last check of Facebook, one last journey through the wonder which is Minecraft. In fact, one poll found 95% of Americans use technology within an hour of bed. This causes issues in three distinct ways, firstly it encourages kids to go to bed later. Secondly, it excites them close to bedtime. And finally, the light emissions can disrupt the body’s natural rhythms.  So when bedtime comes near read them a book or tell them a story, their body clocks will thank you!

  1. Lead by example

Watching your child develop is one of life’s great thrills. Most of what they learn they learn from you, their parents. The same goes for their use of technology. If you tune them out to reply to a text or check Facebook, they’ll learn that too. Indeed, one sad fact is that many kids feel they need to compete for attention with their parents’ devices, so be sure to lead by example.

  1. Stay informed

The internet is always changing, and that means you’ll probably need to constantly make efforts to educate yourself about what’s available to your kids, who they’re talking to and what they’re talking about it. Acronyms are a good place to start, ever seen “POS” come up on your child’s chat screens? If so, you should know it means “parent over shoulder”.  Yep, they’re onto you. But don’t worry, let them know you know what it means and they’ll have a whole new respect for their “cool” mum or dad.

  1. Use technology as an opportunity to connect

Get your child to show you things that they find fun or engaging on technology or the Internet. Be open minded and genuinely interested in what they are doing (even if you find it somewhat baffling), learn about their world and explore it with them. The more your child is comfortable engaging with you on the fun stuff, the more they’ll be open to discussing with you some of the more challenging things they discover online.

Whether it’s the digital world or the physical one, children are always going to explore, experiment and push boundaries. That’s part of the job description of being a kid. Our job is not to stop them from exploring, but to give them the opportunity to explore safely, and to help them build the knowledge and experience so they can safely make their own decisions.

Daniel Zwolenski is co-founder of Code Camp and has taught 10,000 children from ages 5-12 to code around Australia as part of holiday camp programs. Code Camp’s mantra is #infinitepossibilities.

Code Camp will be running workshops for kids aged prep to Year 7 from December 5 – January 20 at three locations across Brisbane (Clayfield College, Holy Spirit Primary School New Farm and St Peter’s Lutheran College, Indooroopilly). Camps start from $350 for three days or $440 for a four day camp. Kids create their own game during the camp learning the ins and outs of basic code, team work, and seeing their creation through from start to finish. Booking are essential via this link …

Sources

  1. http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/teens-fact-sheet/
  2. http://www.growingwireless.com/get-the-facts/quick-facts
  3. http://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/health-and-community/enewsletter/kids-online-statistics
  4. http://literateforlife.org/screen-time-benefits/
  5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34139196
  6. https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/annual-sleep-america-poll-exploring-connections-communications-technology-use-
  7. http://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/enewsletter/screen-time-and-sleep
  8. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/be-a-role-model-find-a-healthy-balance-with-media-and-technology#
  9. http://www.guardchild.com/statistics/

 

Comments

comments



About Author

School Mum

Being a mum to 3 kids (one of them full time at home with me) and trying to juggle everything became pretty crazy.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: 10 Challenges Kids Are Doing Online That Every Parent Needs To Know About - School Mum

  2. Pingback: What To Expect From Your Twelve Year Old - School Mum

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.