The internet is an enchanting wonderland !
We as adults might be able to understand the perils of exposure to the world wide web, but we cannot expect our kids to grasp the full implications of dangers lurking behind that screen. At the touch of a finger it opens up a wondrous world of games and applications.
With my Kids at 10 and 5 years old respectively, it has become increasingly difficult to keep them off the internet. For them it is second nature to navigate the virtual world of “Google” and “YouTube”.
So with the generation of kids so tech savvy comes the natural worrying and fretting about on-line safety.
Recently there was so much outcry about a few “dangerous” games online , the fear about what kids gets exposed to online is so real.
After numerous incidents and reports about cyber crimes and cyber bullying, I decided to take slightly stricter measures about my kids internet habits
1. Use Other Sources First :
There was a time when our books were the first stop for any answer and there was no short-cuts to Google for instant answers. Any school assignment was expected to be done by thinking, brainstorming, asking or consulting.
Lately I have started encouraging my son to appreciate his own creativity and try to solve academic questions by using his brain. There is no need to excel in everything , not all the projects have to be made in “3D”. Any project made using a child’s own creativity is worth much more.
Google should be the last resort and there is nothing wrong in asking for help.
2. Limit Internet Time:
However fascinating it might be , but the virtual world is not a place to be without censoring the time spent there. Despite it being unsafe there is substantial medical proof that state- More the time spent online worse its ill effects health wise..
Mood swings, headaches, unable to fit in social situations, lack of concentration are a few of the adverse effects exhibited by young kids who spend more time on electronic devices. Responsible internet habits instilled at a young age in kids can save them from long term side effects.
Designate time slots for internet usage and online games, follow them strictly. Moderation is key.
3. Online Information Needs To Be Fact Checked
Children tend to be enticed by what they see and their innocent minds believe all the glitz and glamour they see online. Not only are all the sites that cater to kids full of marketing gimmicks , they also tend to cloud their minds with false information.
Kids need to understand, not everything they see on the internet is true . People might not be always what they pretend to be. There should be awareness about all the falsification online, about how a predator might be hiding under the guise of an innocent link.
4. Outdoor Time is Must
In a time when we don’t need to move an inch to entertain ourselves. At a fingers touch you can travel places, read books, have conversations and keep yourself occupied for days on end.
When our kids have a device handy to keep them occupied all day, it becomes significant to emphasise the point that physical activity is the key to better health.
It is important that you take away those electronic devices and encourage them to get physically involved with the world. Take up a hobby, go out for family activities, go to the Zoo. Run on a beach, let them get dirty, get wild.
It will stimulate their creativity and teach them to appreciate the beautiful outdoors, all while improving health.
5. Set A Good Example
There have been times when one of my kids was trying to get my attention and I would be on a hand held device giving them half a ear. We have all been guilty of it one time or other.
During one such conversation my daughter got all teary and asked me to look at her while talking, So after learning the hard way I now try to give them my undivided attention. When my kid wants to talk I keep that phone down . Even though it is hard , when your fingers are itching to grab that phone and go out and explore the virtual world.
Kids learn by example, they see and imitate .
6. Make Them Aware Of Negative Health Effects
Talk to your kids about the ill effects of too much exposure to electronic devices and internet . Make them aware about the heath benefits of playing outside and meeting people in real . Inform them about the effect on their body when constantly subjected to electronic devices . The harm it causes to their eyes and ill effects on overall mental growth.
Talking to children how the constant exposure to a screen might be the reason for their erratic mood swings, and other such issues, will help them understand the health implications better.
Children informed about the ramifications of electronic devices on their health might be more responsible towards their use.
7. Never Engage With Strangers Online
Just as we warn our kids about stranger danger in real world, they should be made aware about the same in the virtual world too. The internet has numerous sites where strangers can interact with unsuspecting kids and befriend them. Discourage children to accept any games requests or friend requests from people they do not know.
Though social media sites like Facebook should have a minimum age limit, that we as parents should enforce.
The internet might seem to be a good place to meet new people, but for an unsuspecting child it is also a very dangerous place.
8. Beware Of Inappropriate Content
I recently came across a few videos on a kids web-site that came as a shocker to me. These innocent looking videos have links to in-appropriate content , disguised as superhero and princesses videos. The linked videos have adult content that can be psychologically damaging to tender and innocent brains.
Teach kids what content is unsuitable for their viewing. Talking to them at an early age , explaining in an age appropriate manner, will cause much less damage then watching this unsolicited content.
There are several news reports about on-line games challenging children to often perform life threatening and criminal activities.
Well informed kids will have a better chance to protect themselves from such well disguised threats.
9. Discuss What Can and Cannot Be Shared
There grows a need to share everything with friends online. There has to be a open discussion at home about limits about what should and should not be shared. It is important to teach kids that once shared, everything shared online stays there forever and can often be used against us.
10.Observe Their Actions Online
Despite taking all the above said measures kids can never be predicted to follow any set of rules. They might just want to experiment or get curious.
It is always a good idea to keep an eye on things , especially on the tiny-tots. I do not call it being a spy, just an extra vigilant parent who might want to take a peep or two at the Five year old watching hello kitty videos. Check internet history on your devices, block inappropriate sites, go that extra mile and be nosy if that is what it takes.
Though my best tip to keep kids safe on the internet is to never let them go on-line , but it is neither feasible nor an option. So to limit any kind of damage the best we can do is keep them informed, talk to them and set boundaries.
When nothing else works turn off that TV, log-out of those laptops and change phone-passwords. Getting bored once in a while would send them exploring and re-discovering those old toys. While using their brains, in the process of self entertainment, they might outsmart Google one day.
What would you add to these tips?