As parents, we always see to it that our children are safe. We babyproof our homes, check how long car seats are good for, research our destination before taking a trip, and more. But there’s something else that most parents are kind of overlooking — the internet.

The internet is a massive world, and the things that can be done with it are virtually endless. It has changed dramatically over time, and access to it has become so easy that it’s now possible with the touch of a finger.

Computers, laptops, smartphones, gaming consoles, etc. — all of which are so common in most households provide easy access to the internet. Kids, in particular, are the ones greatly affected by the big changes that are happening in the ‘online world.’

Take a look at this infographics about how media usage in teens has changed over three decades thanks to the internet.

Teens and Media Over the Years Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

The Benefits Of Digital Media And The Internet

The sight of a child using a smartphone or tablet in today’s world is not rare. Even a kid as young three years old can be seen using these things for entertainment. Whether it’s good or bad is a debatable topic that even experts have different opinions about it.

But the benefits that kids get from using the internet are undeniable — provided that it’s done moderately and with the guidance of parents. Here are some of the most notable ones.

Hand-Eye Coordination

There are educational games that require children to follow objects and interact with them. For example, dragging an object and putting it in the right box can enhance hand to eye coordination.

Communication And Language Skills

The internet allows for a smoother way to interact with people which can help boost their communication skills. Kids can look up answers to their questions with a simple search,

Academic Improvement

Educational websites and online resources can also help children progress in school. 

In the past, children were somewhat limited by the sources of information available to them. Today, the internet gives them a vast library of educational materials at their disposal.

Problem-Solving Skills

Interactive websites and games also improve children’s problem-solving skills. A good example is when they have to figure out how to get to the next level when playing a game. Even as simple as programs or applications not working will require them to use this skill.

The Negative Impact Of Internet And Technology For Kids

As with everything else, the internet is not all rainbows and unicorns. It can also have detrimental effects, primarily because of early and excessive exposure. 

Parents, pay close attention to the following adverse effects of the internet to kids.

Lack Of Face-To-Face Communication

It’s true that the internet helps in improving a child’s communication skills. However, excessive use of it can also lessen ‘real’ conversation with others. 

In general, face-to-face communication is still better especially to build mutual trust, become creative, and provide a higher result.

Weakens Relationship With The Family

The more time that kids spend to stay online, the less time they have for the family. It’s true that parents should allow their kids to surf the web to introduce them to a new world. But sometimes, its effect is that kids close themselves inside an environment without their family.

Physical Inactivity

The internet is meant to stimulate the mind but not the body. A healthy kid is someone who’s strong both mentally and physically. And spending so much time online means that they’ll have very little to no time at all to go outside and get physical.

Moral Corruption And Cyberbullying

Out of all the adverse effects of the internet, these two can be considered as the evilest of all. Celebrities and even ordinary people have been victims of cyberbullying, and it can happen to anyone — including your kid. Worst, there have been reports of kids and teenagers committing suicide after becoming victims.

The personalities of children are still developing, and for this reason, their morals can be corrupted easily. Without proper guidance, they could be exposing themselves to inappropriate online contents. Students, in particular, can be tempted to cheat during exams because they have easy access to all the information they need.

Privacy Threat

This is another thing that parents should be concerned about. Personal information is at risk due to the free information flow of the internet. Kids provide their private and personal information without knowing how dangerous it is to do so.

What Parents Can Do – Internet Safety Tips To Always Keep In Mind

As a parent, it’s your job to help your kids become responsible when browsing the internet. It’s up to you to keep your child safe from the dangers that lie in this online world. The key is keeping yourself involved in anything that your children do when he or she is browsing the web.

The good news is that there are things that you can do to ensure that your child is exposed only to appropriate contents. Safety and preventative measures can be implemented to make him or her become responsible internet users.

You can start by following the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about digital media for kids of different ages. Other than that, listed below are a couple of other things that you can do

So read on.

Assure Your Kids That They Can Tell You Anything

Having an open conversation with your kids is the key to how well things will be. Make them feel comfortable to tell you anything and everything that’s happening whether online or offline. Assure them that you’re doing this for their sake and it’s not to find ways just to punish them.

Discover the world of the internet together with them. After all, even adults can sometimes learn from kids. Besides, it’s a great way to bond with your kids which will strengthen your relationship with them. And the bonus? You get to keep an eye on what they’re doing.

Let them show you what they like doing online. And while you’re at it, make yourself familiar and a little technical with these websites. This way, you’d be able to make the right calls on how your children use the internet.

Set A Limit On How Long They Can Stay Online

Children under 18 months old should not be allowed to use any kind of screen media except for video chatting. For those aged two to five, it should be limited to an hour per day of high-quality programs only. Finally, children that are six and older can be allowed to use screen media PROVIDED that it doesn’t take up their time for sleeping and physical activities.

Set Rules For Internet Use At Home

Talk and agree with your children about acceptable guidelines when using the internet. Things such as when and for how long they can stay online should be discussed clearly. Make sure that they don’t provide any personal information without seeking your approval first.

Agree with them as to which websites are okay and not okay to visit. They also need to respect the people they’re interacting with and use words properly. These are just some of the rules that you can impose on your children as they’re browsing the internet.

If needed, let them know that there would be punishments should they fail to adhere to any of the rules. Simple punishments such as ‘no internet for a day’ (you decide) should do. Above all, it’s important that they understand these rules and what they’re for.

Discuss The Risks With Your Kids

This tip is crucial to whether or not your kids will follow your rules on internet usage. Unfortunately, kids can be inquisitive the more that they’re restricted by rules. As such, for every rule that you implement, let them know why.

The internet can also be used to make friends, and sometimes, kids (and adults) will want to meet in person. But the problem here is that this could lead to unpleasant experiences or worst, your child’s safety might be at risk. It’s not about being paranoid; it’s about being realistic. If they want to meet up, make sure you or another adult is with them.

Teach Your Kids To Protect Their Personal Information

May websites and applications ask for personal information before allowing access to more personalized content. However, it’s not always right to provide this information just because these sites are asking for it. Again, remind your kids to always ask for your approval first.

Kids can also be tempted to share their passwords with others especially their friends. At a very young age, you have to teach your kids the importance of privacy. Help them create strong passwords like letters and numbers combination. Finally, don’t let anyone else have access to it including you except for when there’s an emergency.

Educate Your Child On Internet Safety Resources

iPredator Inc. is an NYS Cybercrime Psychology & Internet Safety Company that provides  educational and advisory products & services to consumers and organizations on topics such as:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Cyberstalking
  • Online sexual predation
  • Cybercrime
  • Cyberharassment
  • Cyberterrorism
  • Internet addiction
  • Information Age Forensic Psychology

Their 100 Internet Safety Tips for Parents checklist can be used by all parents to find out if you and your child are possible targets cyber attacks. Do note, that not all items in the checklist may apply to you and your family, but the goal is to agree to at least 95% of the items.

Different safety guides that are specific to Cyber Security, CyberBullying, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook (of course!) are also available. It’s a lot of information for sure, but then again, they’re worth it especially if you’re able to keep your child safe from the dangers that lie ahead.

Report any content you deem inappropriate. The Hotline.ie service provides an anonymous facility for internet users to report suspected illegal content securely and confidentially.

Set a good example

Last but not the least, be a good example to your children. Practice what you preach and make sure you abide by the same rules you are enforcing. Keep your smartphones and laptops away during your ‘internet-free time’ with your family.

Conclusion

The reality is, the positive impacts of the internet far outweigh its disadvantages. However, that’s only going to be the case if it’s used properly and responsibly. It’s not a bad idea to introduce your kids to the online world at a young age so long as you guide them every step of the way.