Teaching kids from an early age how to respectfully treat not only others but themselves on the Internet will go a long way towards making the Internet a safer space for children and adults alike.
The Internet is quickly becoming a fundamental part of young people’s and adults’ identities. While adults have developed the tools to navigate the online climate, kids are not as well versed. With social media apps accessible at the touch of a button, kids can quickly find themselves trapped in a world that cyberbullies and online predators use as their playground.
As the Internet holds the key to so many important things, it’s important not to scare people into thinking that their family will be safer without Internet access. Instead, kids and parents need to be educated in the online world.
The downside of the Internet
One of the Internet’s strengths could also be one of its main weaknesses. The fact that the Internet is so accessible and instantaneous means that anything a person could want access to is quite literally at the touch of a button.
However, this also means that access to harmful content and cyberbullies is just as attainable. Hiding behind the relative anonymity of a computer screen, cyberbullies and online predators become shameless. And, because school-aged children can’t fully grasp the magnitude or consequences of social media posts, they may think the attention is flattering.
Online safety has become such a prevalent issue that the February 11 Internet Safety Day is now being globally recognized and celebrated. All in an attempt to promote the safety and positive use of digital technology for young people.
The Internet is so prevalent in kids’ lives that a recent survey found that British children aged between 8 and 19 are spending 44 hours per week looking at either a computer, mobile, or television screen. This means that there are 44 hours in a week where kids could stumble across something inappropriate and or harmful. In fact, many surveyed respondents reported being exposed to some type of cyber risk.
Screen time is also up in America. It’s been reported that six in 10 American children aged 8 to 12 are exposed to at least one form of cyber risk. While 45% have experienced cyberbullying.
Parenting in the Internet age
It’s a human reaction to want to limit screen time or take the Internet away altogether. At such formative ages, kids don’t need to be subjected to online bullying in any form. However, banning the Internet is not the right approach. Instead, kids need to be taught the right and wrong way to handle themselves on the Internet.
While there is no precedent for how to navigate parenting alongside social media, Internet safety in the home should be something that is practiced by the whole family, not just the kids. Like most other habits, social media use is a learned habit from which children take the lead from their parents.
Parents and caregivers should also be educating themselves and their children on social media usage. This starts by understanding the risks involved and encouraging children to be on the lookout for interactions that make them feel scared or sad. Kids should also be told that if an interaction has left them feeling poorly, they can always confide in their parents – no matter how uncomfortable it may seem.
However, parenting in the Internet age isn’t just about shielding your child from harm. In fact, it’s also about ensuring that your child knows how to behave on the Internet in a respectful manner. This is done by holding conversations as a family about how the notion of treating others as you expect to be treated applies to the Internet as well.
Educating children about cybersafety
The Internet can be a great resource. From gathering information at the touch of a button to staying in contact with friends and family all over the globe, there are overwhelming positives when using the Internet. However, while the Internet can be used for good, it’s also used as a hiding place for criminals and bullies.
However, like anything, the Internet, and subsequently how to interact on its platforms, are learned habits. Teaching kids from an early age how to respectfully treat not only others but themselves on the Internet will go a long way towards making the Internet a safer space for children and adults alike.