There are many things modern-day parents have to be concerned about, and Internet technology is one of them.
Of course, it is impossible to keep your child away from the Internet indefinitely, so the question is when is the appropriate age to introduce them to the Internet, and how can we keep them safe when they are browsing online.
Exercising a reasonable amount of control without suffocating your child with excessive attention is really difficult.
Parents are divided when it comes to their children using the Internet. Many believe that the Internet is an all-around dangerous place and something that they feel the need to protect their children from (and considering all of the misinformation and disturbing content that is floating around on the web, their concerns are understandable.)
But other parents believe that the Internet is an inseparable part of our lives, and children should be taught how to use it properly since it is impossible to do without it in any aspect of human existence nowadays.
It is, of course, impossible to prevent your child from ever going online. Most of their classmates will probably have Internet-enabled smartphones, and the schools nowadays also provide gadgets to facilitate the learning process.
So the best way may be to allow your child access to the Internet in a safe and controlled manner at a certain age. Before we dive into how to do that, let's look at some of the benefits of using the Internet and how it can genuinely help your child.
Benefits of browsing the net.
The impact of the Internet on the child's mind has been the subject of many academic studies. Unfortunately, these studies have not been able to provide us with a definitive answer on whether the Internet is good or bad for a child. On the one hand, the Internet allows us to access a wealth of information.
Before the Internet, you would actually have to go to a library and search for a specific book to find the information you needed. Now, it is available with a push of a button.
On the other hand, this ease of access causes concern since not all information that is presented on the Internet is suitable for children. For this reason, young children shouldn't be left unsupervised with an Internet-enabled device; otherwise, they may stumble upon something that they are not yet psychologically equipped to process.
In order to protect youngsters from unwanted content, Google is offering a SafeSearch option. It filters out all explicit search results, including videos, images, and websites. Although safe search may not be 100% accurate, it will block severely explicit search results such as pornography.
But you should keep in mind that safe search only works on Google, and it will not prevent users from accessing explicit content via other search engines; it will also not work if the user is navigating directly to the explicit website.
Considering the fact that preschool children have no reason to be spending much time on the Internet looking up information anyway, it is better if you supervise them while they are using Internet-enabled devices. This shouldn't take more than one or two hours a day.
Once your child starts going to school, they may need access to the Internet to complete their school project. At this age, they are still too young to be left on their own, so parents will still need to be in the room when they are using an Internet-enabled device. Find websites that are appropriate for their age and applications with high learning potential.
It is also essential to instill the idea of balance from the very first day of going online. You can do that by putting a time limit on the online sessions so that the children don't get addicted to devices. Some apps and websites do the job for you by providing you with a timer and allowing you to set a time limit on each session. YouTubeKids, for example, will shut down the program after a predetermined number of minutes.
When do you exercise control?
It is also not a good idea to allow your children to use Internet-enabled devices just before bedtime. Online content stimulates the brain and tends to excite young impressionable children, which is counterproductive when you need them to go to sleep.
Some parents are afraid that if they don't allow their children to use the Internet from a very young age, their children will fall behind and won't be as technology-savvy as their peers. However, your children's technological prowess will not be a problem if you allow them to access the Internet in a controlled manner for a limited period of time.
Overall your children can access the Internet from a very young age, but that doesn't mean that they can access all of it at once. Even people who provide Internet services realize that, and this is why we have age restrictions on many services provided online.
For example, you cannot sign up for social media platforms or get an email address until you turn 13. However, we should note that there is no mechanism in place that will verify the user's age, so it is still up to parents to monitor their children's access to these platforms.
In general, it is probably OK to allow your children up to an hour of supervised Internet use when they are young. After all, not all of the information on the Internet is tainted; there are some genuinely useful sites that can help you develop your child's brain and their literacy/numeracy skills with various games and fun activities.
When your children start going to school, they will need to access special sites to look up information related to the homework, but even at this stage, they still shouldn't be left alone in the room with the Internet device.
After children turn 10, they start craving independence, which includes using Internet-enabled devices independently. And this is when various Internet safety tools can help you restrict your child's access to malignant information.
Communication is important
As children continue to grow, it becomes harder and harder to monitor their activity online. Because of this, it is always a good idea to talk to your children and warn them about the dangers lurking on the Internet, so they know how to protect themselves from unwanted attention, cyberbullying, or any other unpleasant information they could potentially come across.
And if, at some point, they do have an unpleasant experience online, it is important for them to know that they can come to you for help. The last thing you want is for your children to hide their Internet activity from you. So all parents should work on building that trust.
You may also be keen to read on:
Best 5 Parental Control Apps for your child's phone
10 effective parenting tips to handle your preschooler kid
Cyberbullying: Is it happening to your child? How do you resolve it?