With so much information going around about what is and isn’t appropriate for our kids to be doing online, it is little wonder parents are confused. Whilst it is a relatively new challenge, it doesn’t diminish the need ensure to be constantly thinking about technology and devices and how they will fit in to the daily lives of ourselves and our kids. I hear lots of concern from parents, I hear lots of rules parents put in place and I hear a lot about the things parents shouldn’t be doing and the things they should be doing in order to keep their kids safe and responsible with technology and the online world. To help eliminate some of the ‘noise’…here are a few beliefs I hear, that I believe you can pretty much kiss goodbye.
These are the statements that have now been superseded by the advances to the technology and the increased immersion of our kids and ourselves into a world that relies on this technology for a large portion of our information, our entertainment and our social interaction.
Their smartphone is only for making calls and texting
Seriously, no kid is going to carry around the internet at their fingertips and not use it! A little like letting them loose in a candy store and telling them to buy an apple. A child is not going to simply send a message to an individual friend as a text every time, when they can take a picture, edit a video, add some text, choose their recipients and engage in back and forth banter with a larger group. Teach them instead how to interact safely and think critically, or don’t buy them a smart phone.
They will learn this stuff at school
Too often parents believe that it is a schools responsibility to teach their kids about cyber safety issues. We can’t forget that this teaching must be an ongoing process that requires lots of communication which needs to be as dynamic as the technology and it needs to start at home. As the technology changes, so too will your child and so too must your expectations. This is not something that can be learnt in a one off cyber safety lecture or school incursion. In saying that, having parents turn up to information nights about their kids use of technology and the online world would be a really good start, and the one thing many parents are neglecting to do.
My child is young, I don’t need to worry about this stuff
Certainly your 2 year old may not have yet opened a Twitter account but the moment they first swipe a screen or borrow your phone for a game or story, then they are old enough. As parents we need to start thinking about how the technology will be incorporated into the lives of our families from the beginning. With many schools adopting BYOD programs some kids as young as 6 will be walking around with internet enabled devices in their schoolbags. So pretty much any age, is never too young to start thinking about this ‘stuff’.
My child is only playing the computer in the lounge room so I know what they are doing
Any child that is allowed to a friends house, that has an iPod touch, that goes on a bus to school, that plays with other kids, that knows how to log in to free wifi…..any child can get access to the internet away from the eyes of the parent. Don’t be fooled in to thinking they won’t have a chance to see things you don’t want them to, or access sites they shouldn’t. Kids are naturally curious, they are good at the tech stuff and they will find a way around your controls.
My child knows everything, I could never keep up
We can never protect our kids from everything. There will be things in life that are completely out of all our hands. There will also be some instances where it is our teaching that has kept them safe. We teach them to cross a road and drive a car despite knowing that accidents can still happen. But we give it a good try. We give them all the skills we can to protect themselves. The same must be said for their life online. They may know the tech stuff, but our years of life experience, render us the ‘wise ones’. We need to help them with the critical thinking and behaviours. We can’t throw our hands in the air and say its all too hard. We may not be able to know everything our kids are doing online, but we need to make an effort to have enough knowledge and understanding to be relevant in our teaching.
We can’t afford to sit back and rest on the teachings of the past or hope others will step in for us. As always, keep up to date, keep talking to your kids and enjoy all the great things the technology has to offer.