Think of it this way: Would you drop your 7 year old off to have some alone time at a carnival? The mall? The movie theater? So why would you let them have full access to the internet?
Think about it. It probably wouldn’t be the best choice to send our child alone to the movies. Or to navigate their way alone through a New York subway. The point is that just because being online doesn’t pose an apparent in the moment physical threat it doesn’t mean that children should have full access to everything the internet has to offer – without some guidance and supervision.
Technology is wonderful and very much a part of all our lives and will be an integral part of our children’s lives. But think about being online in comparison to how we prep a child who is learning how to drive. We wouldn’t let our children drive a car without teaching them the rules, spending a year literally by their side practicing safe driving and modeling good choices before we let them out on their own. Why do we let our children go online where there are known dangers (child predators), adult content (pornography is rampant and accessible with just a click), illegal activity (gambling for example), without providing them with the tools to be safe while online? It is a known fact (and common) that children as young as 7 will google the word ‘boobs’ or ‘sex’ just because they can. We as parents need to help guide the many tough choices children will make online. And we need to start instilling these habits when they are young.
Children Benefit from Boundaries and Limits with their Technology:
Our children need supervision and they need boundaries. Do you want to have a child that comes to you if they are confused by something they see online? (1 in 4 children report seeing inappropriate content online.) We know some of our children are surpassing us in their use/knowledge of technology…. but we can’t bury our heads in the sand and just hope for the best. We need to be the first line of defense in our children’s safety. When we (the parents) feel we have taught our children how to navigate safely you can ease up a bit – but never lose the vigilance of watching and monitoring and being a part of your child’s online life. We also do not recommend that you are secretive about monitoring and supervision – be open with your child that you will be monitoring what they do online…because once they use technology there is no privacy and share with them that is is not as a punishment but it is part of your responsibility in keeping them safe.
Tips For Parents:
- All technology should be used in an open area of the house. Starting this habit young makes it a norm in the house. Supervising your children online and being a part of their online world helps teach them how to safely use these lifelong tools and make good decisions.
- Give kids structure and boundaries by having an online safety contract – let your children be involved in the process…the main reason children don’t come to their parents when confused, uncomfortable or scared by something they saw online is because they think their parents will take away their technology. The goal is to use the contract to have open communication between you and your child.
- Tell your children to never share Personal Information – Some children think personal information is just their name and address. Teach your children that it is also the school they attend, extracurricular activities, the camp they go to, their parents’ names and where they work for example. Teach your children to “CHECK FIRST” with you when prompted by a site for any personal information.
- Teach your children…What you post online stays online forever!!!! This is a hard concept for kids to get in this world of snap chat and quick texts. This is an ongoing discussion.
- Teach your children to use their inner safety voice before posting, snapping, texting, you get the idea. They need to ask themselves: what would my parents, principal, police or predator think about what I am going to do online right now? This question might be enough for a child to rethink what they are going to post.
- Model moderation of tech use. Our children learn from what we do. Think about what your children are seeing in your behavior. Are you always connected to your phone? Do you put it down at mealtime? Create family rules of no tech at the table. Limit screen time.