Why do parents of toddlers and preschoolers need to start learning now all they can about technology, the online world and cyber safety? Surely this is something for the tween and teen parents? Something to keep in mind for later?
When I talk about technology and cybersafety to parents of preschoolers the most common responses are along the lines of:
1) “They (our kids) will probably know much more than me so I can’t even imagine trying to keep up with them”
2) “At least I have plenty of time before they start using technology and I have to be concerned about safety etc”
I know it may not be as pressing as toilet training, tantrums or sleep and settling, but as a mother who has just packed off her baby boy to high school….that time goes so very fast, and it will be an issue before you know it.
I believe very strongly however, that these parents are in the very best position to learn all they can about the online world and they should start straight away. The minute their baby or toddler starts swiping on their iPad, watching a Play School segment on Youtube or listening to a Dora the Explorer story App, they are part of the online world and are well on their way to being immersed in the ‘gadget technology’. A child in kinder or preschool or even still at home with mum, is so very close to spending a good deal of time online. Whilst parents may be able to prohibit the use of technology during these years, once they hit school they will be smack bang in the midst of the technology. And even sooner if there are older siblings.
Many parents believe that this cyber stuff is one of the challenges they will face in the future. Here is why I think parents of preschoolers are in a better position than any, to start becoming aware of the online world:
- Lessons Learned: We have had the internet for 20 years now. We are now aware of things like online predators, sexting, cyberbullying, identity theft and our digital footprints. These are things that parents wouldnt have perceived as an issue when they bought home their bundles of joy 16 years ago.
- Getting in Early: Any behaviours that are learnt early have a far better chance of sticking through adolescents. Being able to teach your kids about time limits , privacy and social etiquette the moment they start using technology gives them a far better chance of regulating their own behaviour later. It just needs to be kept to a level that meets their age and development and needs to be revisited regularly as their needs change.
- Parents are Online: Parents with young children today are probably already far more comfortable with technology than those parents of previous years gone by. With the majority of people on social media daily, it is a lot easier for parents to keep abreast of what is going on with the online world and transfer this knowledge to their children.
- Abundance of Resources: We now have so many resources available to help parents awareness of some of the things kids are doing online, as well as the strategies needed to best deal with some of the pitfalls. There are websites, teaching aides, forums, privacy settings and security software all aimed at helping us keep our kids safe.
Once again it is nigh on impossible for parents to keep up with all their kids are doing online. It is imperative however we remain aware and vigilant, particularly in those early years when their skills and ideas about online life are being formed. If they begin with boundaries from a young age, have constant communication about the online world and use the technology together with their kids, then parents have a far better chance of successfully guiding them through the adolescent years when their control will diminish with age!
And for any kinder, preschool or community group that wants a presentation by The Modern Parent to help parents understand the world of parenting and technology…..then please feel free to contact me! Blatant plug there, but I do love talking to the parents of preschoolers.
How old were you kids when they first used engaged with technology?