As a sign of the times we live in, more and more children are getting Internet-enabled gadgets in daily life. As children often see their parents or guardians obsessed by technological devices, such as smartphones, iPad, and laptops, so too they feel shouldn’t be left behind. Some parents (of course not all) naturally want to keep their children safe and it is perfectly natural to be concerned about Internet usage. Like the real world, the Internet has its seedy side and it can be all too easy for children to accidentally stray onto that side.
It is noteworthy that parenting a child online is not so different from parenting a child in the real world, and many techniques used in the real world can also be applied online. Parents can use the same techniques to raise their children to develop discipline and have both informal and formal education. However, the reality of present digital world requires them to pay more attention to their children than ever before, precisely because of countless technology-related downsides. This indeed calls for parents to exercise their responsibility more actively for proper upbringing of their children. It’s absurd to overlook that modern technology gadgets are pervasive and ubiquitous.
The prime purpose of online safety mechanisms is to raise children to be more responsible, hardworking and forward-looking. Keeping children safe online is achievable, if the following precepts are proactively enforced at all levels, especially at home.
First, introduce house rules. Thankfully, many houses already have rules in place for the real world, such as at leisure, knowing where their child is going and with whom when they do head out. These rules can easily be adapted to a child’s online activities. Allocating a set amount of time a child is allowed to spend online is always a good idea. Parents should also always encourage their children to talk about what they are doing online and who they are speaking to; taking an interest in their online activities can often make them more open to talking.
Second, use available tools. There is an almost endless number of tools available to make the Internet safer for children and help you control, track and/or limit what your kids can see and do online. The more you know the better, so it is always a good idea to learn about Internet filters, firewalls, monitoring software and what browsers are suitable for children. For example, Google has its own child-friendly browser called Kiddle. Kiddle presents a colourful space-themed page and displays search results that have been approved by Google editors as safe sites for children.
Third, introduce a browsing zone. This kind has nexus with house rules. Obviously, with the introduction of laptops and smartphones capable of accessing the Internet, this is no longer a solution. However, having a rule that children can only use devices when an adult is present or that devices must be kept in a family room can make it much easier to keep an eye on your children and ensure they don’t come across anything unsuitable.
Last but not least, the golden rule. The key thing children need to be aware of is that what they say or do in the digital world may be seen as a reflection of how they are in the real world. The golden rule to teach your child is that if they wouldn’t be comfortable doing or saying something face-to-face.
Toys are a hot-button security issue because they affect the privacy of children, but the digitalisation of our everyday lives has created security vulnerabilities everywhere. These days everyone needs to be a parent and educator in the online world as well as the real world. The internet is a great educational and recreational resource that can help children learn and satisfy their curiosity about life. Besides, children have rights and are capable of forming their own views and enjoy the right to express these views freely in matters affecting them and that due weight be given to them.
Indeed, the development of the modern information society offers great opportunities to children as it does the adults. In particular, it has profoundly changed the ways in which children interact with and participate in the world around them. Internet access points, mobile technology and the growing array of internet-enabled devices, combined with the immense resources to be found in cyberspace provide unprecedented opportunities to learn, share and communicate.
But that doesn’t relieve parents or guardians of the responsibility to take measures of not leaving children alone in the middle of a city. The internet is like a big city with all kinds of neighbourhoods. We must always make sure that young children using computers or tablets or phones which access the internet are in a position where an adult is nearby monitoring what sites or apps they are using.
Children can face three categories of risks online: inappropriate conduct, inappropriate content, and inappropriate contact. As a result, there’s a need to keep them safe online. They may stumble upon questionable content while searching for something else by clicking on the wrong links.
The writer is a law expert.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.