Whether we like it or not, the age of the internet is here to stay.
A child as young as four is capable of using a computer with some amount of technical flair. Children in their early teens are extremely capable of getting around net filters in order to gain access to websites on the internet that their parents wouldn’t approve of. Teachers too are slowly but surely integrating technology into the classroom because of its ability to connect people extremely well even virtually.
Since technology, the internet and social media are becoming such an integral part of our children’s lives, rather than completely cutting them off from the internet, it is imperative that we make them aware of pros and cons of the internet and most important of all, teach them how to use the internet and technology responsibly, so that they can be safe.
1. User Beware – For children, there is really no downside to technology. Homework problems can be solved by simply asking for help on a forum, books, toys, gadgets can be bought with the click of a button, you don’t need to see people face to face in order to talk to them, and a friend is just a message away. For most parents and teachers however, technology and the internet seem like a hotbed of vices because they dont really know much about it. Children on the other hand, know far more then their parents or teachers do. Therefore, it is all the more nessecary that they be aware of what can be accomplished with technology and intenet, whether good or bad. This can be accomplished by a class on online safety in school, where the school can get an expert to come and speak to both parents and children or if the parents are well-versed with technology and the internet, they themselves can sit their child down and explain that technology and the internet must be used with some caution.
2. The perils of information-sharing – Most websites, especially social media websites have an age restriction when it comes to creating accounts. However, these restrictions can easily be circumvented by enterprising children. Once these children create accounts, it is frightening how easily they share personal information online. There is no point in forbidding a child to have an account anywhere because it is likely they will simply create one without telling you about it. Rather, what parents and teachers can and should do is talk about the perils of sharing information online. They can also lay down guidelines as to how children should conduct themselves online. Some guidelines can be: no accepting friend or follower requests from strangers or people you only vaguely know, no posting contact information online, no sharing location information, no posting of provocative content etc. We may not like the fact that technology is such a big part of our children’s lives but it’s better to be aware of what your child is doing and know that they are doing it safely rather than them doing it in secret.
3. Don’t arbitrarily forbid them from visiting websites – There are certain things nobody wants children to see online, such as objectionable content, gore, violence etc So it natural to want to prevent a child from being exposed to this far too early on. However, outright forbidding a child to do anything simply means that the child now is all the more determined to break the rules. If there is something you do not want children to see, then you need to explain why that website/content is objectionable and why you do not want the child to see it. Arbitrary reason such as: “No, it is bad for you” is not going to work either. Treat the child as an equal and explain why. Even if the child does end up visiting the website or seeing content that they were not supposed to, don’t berate them for not listening to you. Instead explain that you hope this will not happen again. Curiosity is natural and not all children are obedient listeners.
4. Teach children what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate content – Children do not automatically have ideas as to what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate content. It is parents and teachers who need to teach them. Once you let them know what can be posted on the internet and what should not be posted, over time, they will develop decision making skills that help them decide between what is right and what is wrong and what should be shared and should not be shared online.
5. Cyber-bullying is never acceptable – The amount of freedom the internet offers is enormous. Creating a separate online persona is as easy as figuring out what is 1 + 1. For some children, the internet offers them a way to maliciously trouble other children who they may not like or who they feel have wronged them. The fact of the matter is that children can be surprisingly cruel and are capable of driving other children to self-harm and suicide by simply using their words alone. Of late, cyber-bullying has evolved as a serious problem among children. It is especially prevalent among teens and tweens because it is at that age that children begin to form social connections in a serious manner. At school teachers, can talk about how badly cyber-bulling affects others while at home, parents can impress upon children the consequences of cyber-bullying and that is not an acceptable way of dealing with people, regardless of how they make you feel.
6. The danger in dealing with strangers – Sometimes despite all our attempts at educating them about online safety, children will still come across certain dangers such as: strangers who are insistently contacting them, known acquaintances making them uncomfortable online by sending lewd content to them etc. Let children know that in case something like this happens, the first thing they need to do is contact a parent, a teacher or any other responsible adult they are okay with confiding in. The adult in question can then handle the situation by either making a complaint online or lodging a complaint at the cyber police department in the local police station.
How do you deal children and their use of technology, the internet and social media? Share your suggestions or opinions with us in the comments section below!