Young Kids Online: Getting it right from the start
Today’s kids are born as global digital citizens. The Internet places a smorgasbord of experience within easy reach from the moment they are old enough to watch a You Tube video or hold a touchscreen.
A recent report showed 87% of 5-7 year-olds in the UK are on-line and noted this trend is reflected in other countries including Australia. (Holloway,D., Green, L. and Livingstone, S. (2013). Zero to eight. Young children and their internet use).
Two key recommendations of this report were that parents need to be educated to maximise the benefit and minimise the risk when young children are online and that children need age-appropriate cyber safety education.
So what can we parents do to address these concerns? We need to get it right, from the start. It’s important to make discussion about on-line rules and activities part of everyday life, so the conversation will continue and extend as our children grow older.
Here are 3 key strategies to manage younger children on-line:
Creating House Rules around the Internet
- YOU own the passwords. They are YOUR passwords, not your children’s.
- When can they play? Allocate specific times and set appropriate filters (see Take Control).
- What they can play? Research the games your child wants to play, including the safety provisions and profile privacy settings. Popular game areas with younger children are Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Webkinz and Minecraft.
- Where can they play? Place the computer in a highly visible area so you can easily supervise and reinforce that being on-line is not a private activity.
- What they can share? Explain what they can share (user name) and what they can’t (such as full name, address, and phone number). Ensure they understand why they mustn’t share their password with anyone except with you.
- Create an account and participate in games with your child and their on-line friends, to ensure you are aware first-hand how safe the environment is.
- Only allow your kids to play computers where you can view and hear their experiences. Start young and it will be easier to enforce this rule when they are older.
- Be extra vigilant with youtube and different game tutorials which are a common first internet experience for young children. Even if you think a “gamer” is a safe narrator- be aware that in the early tutorials some of them swore before they realised how that would impact on their audience viewing.
- An active interest will encourage your child to share their on-line experience and make it easier for them to come to you if there is a problem. If anything on-line makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell you immediately.
Use filters to screen inappropriate content:
- Google Safe Search will restrict a search to child appropriate content
- You Tube Safety Mode will restrict access to inappropriate videos
- Free parental filtering software is available, with up-to date reviews on-line e.g. K9, Windows Live Family, Norton Family
- Net Nanny ($36.98) is a popular choice for ease of use and features
For older children, the opportunities, risks and responsibilities are wider. I’ll be looking at issues affecting parents of upper primary and high school kids on-line in a subsequent post.
Sandy Fussell is an IT Consultant and an award-winning author of books for young people. You can find her at www.sandyfussell.com and www.samuraikids.com. For more information on this topic, visit her Pinterest Board Cyber Safety for Kids.