This children’s day let’s talk about one of the most relevant topics for kids these days- the Internet! Children spend a lot of their time doing homework, talking to friends or playing games on the internet. For parents, it is more important than ever to teach their kids early on how to make the most of the internet without experiencing its many pitfalls.
Till even a few years back, things were much more simple. Parents laid down certain instructions and children followed them. The communication happened face-to-face – think of those long conversations on the dinner table – and parents had a general idea of what was happening in their life.
Fast forward to now and things have become far more complicated. The internet has always been around but in this day and era, it is everywhere. No longer is a child’s pathway to the Internet a cranky dial-up connection on a large home common PC for the entire family. According to research, most children are getting their first smartphones by the age of 10. Every house has Wi-Fi. Even Facebook and Twitter are getting older; every day brings a new social media platform which is the rage. From Snapchat where you can share pictures and videos for a limited time to Telegram where you can message anonymously, there’s a platform for almost everything. And of course, as a parent, it’s bound to be a lot to take in. While kids are growing up in the digital age, how do parents ensure that their children stay safe and sound in this new world?
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY OF THE INTERNET
At best the internet is a great source of information for children, at worst it can seriously affect their emotional well-being by feeding them unpleasant content. Let’s have a look at what exactly is the good, the bad and the ugly side of the Internet.
The good: A useful source of information on educational topics
The bad: Wasting time by excessive use of social media, chatting apps, and browsing
The ugly: Internet hoax, cybercrime, cyberbullying, cyberstalking etc.
It is important that parents are particularly cautious of the dark side or the ugly side of the Internet. In our busy lives it gets difficult to keep up with what’s new around us but as a parent, you must be aware of all the ways in which your kid can be affected.
EDUCATING KIDS ABOUT ONLINE SAFETY
Teaching your kids how to use the internet is a lot like teaching them how to ride the bicycle. Initially you give them support by constantly being with them and as they practice and gain confidence you retreat. So don’t worry if your kid hits a roadblock or stumbles a couple of times, they will learn from these experiences eventually. Here are some ways in which you can teach kids about online safety.
- It’s a good idea to talk to your kids about their internet usage. Encourage a healthy discussion where they regularly talk to you about their activities on the internet. This will make them comfortable to approach you in case they face any problem.
- Teach your kids not to disclose any personal information online. Tell them that sharing personal details like contact number, address, bank account number can be dangerous as this information can be misused.
- Tell your kids to be careful while using social networking sites. While teenagers may find it appealing to show off their photographs and check-ins on social media, do warn them that excessive use of social networking can affect their studies as it can get addictive.
- Nothing is private once you upload it on the internet. Kids need to know that if they do not wish the world to know about something then they shouldn’t publish it online. Everything shared on the internet is permanent, even if you delete it and someone has already shared it or taken a screenshot it remains.
- The internet can sometimes encourage rude behavior but kids must know that they should never say things online which they would not in a face to face interaction. Cyberbullying can be dangerous.
- Do not trust strangers online. Kids should be taught to only talk or accept friend requests from people they know and trust in real life.
- Do not open emails or click/download attachments from strangers. It could be a phishing mail which tricks people into downloading malicious programs onto their computers.
- Teach kids to refrain from keeping easily guessable passwords. They should use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters to make a strong password which is changed periodically.
An alert parent is one who is well informed about the advantages and disadvantages of not just the internet but any technology which your kids may use. The idea is to ensure that kids stay secure from the risks and threats associated with the use of any technology.
Always ensure that you’re an approachable parent and that your kids can share any problem with you. You do not want to leave your kid reaching to strangers for help.
As a cyber smart parent, the most important lesson you can teach your children is to know the difference between the good and the bad side of the Internet.