Online safety for kids is at the forefront of most parents’ minds. BUT – how do we keep up when everything in changing so quickly? We talk to Jane Webster, from Code9 Parent about how they educate parents to keep their kids safe online!
The internet was born back in 1989, but it didn’t really become much until the mid 1990s when we got Yahoo, Google and Hotmail. As we left 1999 there was panic about the Y2K bug (storm in a teacup), and then in 2004 The Facebook, as it was known then, was launched, 2006 saw Twitter and so on and so on… Online exploded with games and social networks, entertainment and information on everything. It’s a fast moving marvel and our children have been born into an era where this is their normal. Our kids are digital natives, they intuitively know how to use apps and platforms from a very young age and we’re the first generation of parents trying to navigate our way through parenting these digital kids without the benefit of having been one ourselves.
How many hours do you think your child spends online?
A recent survey in the UK has one third of all internet users being under the age of 18. The study shows the average 3-4-year-old is online for 8hrs and 18mins a week, and the average 12-15-year-old is spending over 20 hours a week online. Australia’s statistics are yet to be formalized but will reveal similar figures.
Do you know what they are doing?
There are plenty of organisations and people that will tell you about online safety for kids and what you should be doing; that you have to get in the know; have an open dialogue with your child (teenagers particularly love this); you should get involved or you should simply shut down the internet and give kids no access… but learning how we should be managing our online lives doesn’t come as naturally to us as it does to our digital kids.
What we do know is that it’s crucial that you get involved because our kids are currently learning about the internet on their own and the internet was not designed with children in mind.
Online safety for kids – what can we do?
- We need to recognise that it is part of our responsibility as parents to teach our children to use these platforms safely and responsibly.
- Catch-up! We need to learn what our kids already know about these platforms, especially around geo-locations, privacy setting, direct messaging and comments. The more you can be involved in the apps your kids use, the better.
- Set some family guidelines on usage. Children and teens don’t have to be online all the time, despite what they might think, and it’s up to us to also model appropriate behavior.
- For older children, teach them to take a breath before they post a comment or a picture online. Just like we teach them to think before they speak, explain that not every status needs to be commented on. There’s a lot of power in just moving on. Guide them to show that not every thought needs to be documented, nor every moment captured and posted online, sometimes it’s okay to just be in the moment.
- They will make mistakes online. Just as we made mistakes when we were young. However, their mistakes may be documented online so we need to be a little empathetic to that and teach them how to come back from mistakes.
The single biggest thing you can do to help with online safety for kids is to learn about the platforms your kids are using for yourself! Children need support to navigate the digital word and this support will be most influential and powerful if it comes from you.
Jane Webster is the driving force behind Code9 Parent producing easy to follow videos that address one or two points on the particular social media platform so you can pick and choose what you need to see and learn then immediately apply it!
This article was published in Issue 23 of our print magazine, August/September 2017.