When you think about it, the children of today will probably never be as awestruck or amazed by the power of the Internet as we were when we first started using it; it’ll just be a regular part of daily life – something that they’re used to and expect. With 84 percent of Singapore households having at least one computer[i] it’s hardly surprising that kids are exposed to the online world more than we as parents would like. While we cannot dictate when our children’s curiosity for the Internet begins, we should encourage it rather than let ‘curiosity kill the cat'[ii].
Computers – and increasingly tablets and smart phones too – are good learning tools just like traditional early childhood activities and materials like building blocks, books, writing materials and dramatic play. As parents, we need to examine the impact of technology on our children and make sure that they use it correctly for their own development of literacy, cognitive, and social skills.
So how can we do that without overstepping our boundaries? Here are a few easy ways to manage your children’s use of the Internet.
1. Parental supervision is still advised
Just like how we would want age-appropriate books and magazines to be in the hands of our children, there is also a need for us to monitor what they are doing and viewing online.
2. Involve your children in setting up rules
Not only does this make them feel like they are part of the process but they are also more likely to follow the rules. Discuss and make rules with your children about when and how long they can be online and what sites are appropriate for them to visit. You may find that you end up learning a lot from your child as well.
3. Keep the computer accessible to everyone
Placing the computer in an area where other family members are usually present promotes interaction and ensures that should your child have any questions about something they’ve seen online, that someone will be there to assist them.
4. Be honest about the dangers online
While it may be tempting to shield our children from the dangers that lurk behind the Internet, it’s also a surefire way of making them vulnerable to it. Educating them about the possibility of online threats (viruses, cybercriminals, cyberbullies) will hopefully make them think twice before clicking an unknown link or allowing a stranger into their social network.
5. Enlist the help of parenting tools
Norton Online Family is a free online tool that parents can use to stay informed of what sites children visit, what they search for, who they chat with, and what social networking sites they spend time at. You’ll get to know your kids better and gain a deeper understanding of their online interests, so you can protect and guide them. This tool is now made available for Android, iPhone®, iPod touch® and iPad™ devices. Without having to open a web browser, parents can monitor their children’s online activities, change settings and turn features on/off anytime, anywhere.
For more tips on how to keep your kids and yourself safe online, please visit: www.norton.com/familyresouces.
[i] Source: http://www.ida.gov.sg/Publications/20070822125451.aspx
[ii] Idiom definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiosity_killed_the_cat
By Effendy Ibrahim, Internet Safety Advocate & Director, Consumer Business, Asia, Symantec