The internet is everywhere, from QR codes on billboards to Twitter hashtags appearing during our favourite shows. Even in the offline world, the online world creeps in. For parents whose children are growing up surrounded by all of this, it can be difficult to know what approach to take when it comes to the world wide web.
Kids now know all about online life from an early age. Nearly every household has at least one laptop, computer or tablet. Meanwhile smartphone ownership is increasing every single day. Our children are encircled by the virtual world from the day they’re born and their squishy faces end up on Facebook. But, until you allow them in, they are excluded from the web. For many parents this is a protective measure, but it can also be a disadvantage when it comes to your child’s education and social life.
It’s natural to be protective. The world can be a dangerous place and the internet is full of unknowns. The internet bogeyman is an ever-present concern but, as long as you are vigilant about where your children surf, what they look at and who they talk to, the web is a pretty safe place.
Parental controls are easy to set up and are an effective way to make sure your children only come into contact with appropriate material. You can customise these controls however you see fit, giving you peace of mind but allowing your children to interact with the good side of the web, learning and developing as they do so.
Yes the internet has its less savoury corners, but there is also a whole world of learning and creativity to be discovered. Online, children have access to resources and ideas which they simply wouldn’t come across at home or at school. If your bright little spark develops an interest in nature, where better to send them than the wonderful National Geographic Kids? If they start getting into current affairs, the Newsround website is an excellent resource. And that’s just for starters, there are all sorts of educational resources out there to help them develop their enthusiasms and aptitudes.
Another consideration is that we live in an increasingly digital world where computer literacy is absolutely essential. From homework to applying for university places many years down the line – there’s no getting away from it, and the sooner they start, the faster they’ll pick it up!
We know you’ll have heard those whiney pleas: “But all my friends are…why can’t I? It’s so unfair!”. Often this is just another way to get their mitts on the latest gizmo, but when it comes to social interaction online, your little whingebag could find themselves left out of the loop. A huge portion of young people’s social lives are now played out on the web. From Facebook invites to tweets to Instagram pics, there’s no stopping it and a flat-out ban could leave your child feeling excluded.
A measured response may be the best way to deal with this. Ensure you have access to all of your child’s social media accounts and that they are all set to private. Rather than reading messages which can be invasive, just keep an eye on who they’re connected to and ensure these are all real life friends. An open and honest relationship with your children about the internet is important, but so is their ability to develop private relationships with friends.
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