Much of our digital world has not been built with the safety of children in mind, and recent media coverage has highlighted the risks. Given the scale of the problem, caregivers understandably feel overwhelmed. When we face tremendous challenges, a common human response is to ignore, deny or delay responding. What this sometimes looks like in families is leaving children to their own devices (quite literally!)
Navigating the internet is like driving a car. It’s not only about whether a child or young person can operate the technology (growing up in the digital age, children and young people often adapt faster to new technology than adults do!). It’s about whether they have the cognitive, social, and emotional maturity to appropriately handle challenges in the online space.
Top tips for preparing children to use the internet:
Children need supervision, guidance, and support to be good digital citizens. From the beginning, explain that owning or operating devices is a privilege, not a right. Clearly articulate the limits, and let your child know that continued use of a device depends on their capacity to use it safely and appropriately.
You will be most effective if you can understand and join your child’s digital world. Learn about their favourite places or activities, who they connect with online and how they understand the internet. Find ways you can connect over online activities, such as playing a game together.
Communicate regularly about online safety. If you make an executive decision (i.e., removal of a device or app), explain your reasons. Where appropriate (and especially with young people), consider inviting your child into the problem solving – explain your concern and then ask, “what can we do about this?”
Be a good digital role model. Children learn far more from what they see us do than what they hear us say!
Consider your own online behaviour. Does this behaviour reflect the values you want to impart on your children?
The 8th of February 2022 marks Safer Internet Day. Find more information and resources at esafety.gov.au and saferinternet.org.
Article Written + Submitted by
Monica Purcell | Family Facilitator