Teaching our kids how to be safe online and instilling good habits and behaviours, is an ongoing process. It is not a one off lecture that we sprout when we give them an iPod and the wifi password and hope that it all sticks. It is not relying on the one hour cyber safety workshop that the school provided. It is not confiscating the technology every time they do something wrong. It is a constant, ongoing and always changing communication that starts from the moment they first swipe an ipad and continues right throughout adolescence.
We all know however, that kids don’t always ‘listen’ to everything we say. Our
nagging teaching doesn’t always go through the ears and entrench itself firmly in their little minds. Sometimes it is even met with eye rolling. With a ‘yes mum’ and a ‘can I get back to my game now’ …
In real life we know that kids learn best from interaction and role playing. We know the lessons we learn from experience are far more beneficial than those we learn from being told. If you ask most kids they know they shouldn’t answer the door to strangers. Yet if you tested this theory there is a good chance most kids would happily go the front door and openly respond to a seemingly innocent knock. Similarly, we can tell our kids not to give away too much information online, but we know that in the moment, they are not always recalling those words of advice. We can tell them that everyone is watching and nothing is private, but in the moment, they forget that there is more than there 3 besties listening in to their online conversation.
Kids have great skills in navigating the internet, of searching for information and of creating content. They are not however, as skilled at recognising the risks. They are not so open to identifying commercialism and unreliable information. They are not experienced enough to recognise a scam. Their brains are not always developed enough to look to future consequences. This is where parents must come in. This is why interacting and role-playing certain online situations is a great way for you to help get those messages sinking in, so that they become automatic and learned behaviours.
Obviously these need to be adapted to the ages of your kids, but…
- show your kid examples of different content. Get them to pick out what is a commercial, what is opinion, what is research etc
- Get them to recognise a box that appears telling them they have won something or to give over their details and actually get them to click on the ‘x’ in the corner. Make it a habit for them to shut down these boxes every time they appear (and before they start reading them to discover what they have won).
- Have pretend conversations online and discuss their responses. SMS each other and pretend you are a friend or a stranger. Did they give away too much information? Could their statements be read another way if said with a different tone of voice? Could someone be offended by what they have said?
- get them in to the habit of asking themselves “is their anyone in the world I don’t want to read this? “
- Get them to think critically about who they are talking to online. What proof have they got that people are who they say they are.
We know that often in both online and in real life, children’s knowledge and understanding is not always transferable to actual situations. They know this stuff if we ask them, but they are not always so good at actually playing it out. This is largely due their age and development. Kids tend to live in the moment. The are not as good at foreseeing consequences. They need help with this. They need us to help make these practises a habit. Behaviours must be learned, and the best way to learn is to experience.