Digital use is ok – with limits

With tablets, phones, lap tops, internet TVs and game consoles overtaking our boys’ lives, parents continue to question how to monitor use of these diverse and ever-changing technologies in age-appropriate ways for their children.

Most parents are eager for their children to develop a keen understanding of digital devices and online landscapes. More than 90 per cent of parents surveyed by the Office of Children’s eSafety Commissioner said they saw great benefits to digital use by children, including helping with schoolwork, development of research skills, entertainment and development of vital skills in technology use.

On the flipside, parents also spend a lot of time worrying about potential risks to their children online – whether they are perceived or real risks to their digital reputation or real safety. More than two-thirds of parents surveyed believed their children were exposed to potential risks by using digital technology.

Accessing inappropriate content was the main concern of parents (60 per cent), half of those surveyed also feared stranger danger online, while 42 per cent thought excessive use of technology could harm their children in some way.

Parents of digital natives have had to try to become tech-savvy to keep up with their children online – latest apps, games, social media platforms and viral videos. However, the nature of tweens and teens today encompasses virtually instantaneous adoption of new must-have technology, apps or platforms. So much so, that a lot of parents are struggling to keep up, understand how to use these devices, apps and sites appropriately, and to teach their children how to do so.

Parental locks and controls on devices, apps and internet browsers can help parents to monitor their child’s use of digital technologies. However, none of these are foolproof and the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner warns parents not to solely rely on these to protect their children online.

The Raising Children Network offers tips to parents about monitoring children’s online use;

  • Talk with all family members about internet access. Monitoring works best if you can have calm and frank discussions with your child about his internet activities.
  • Keep computers in a family area, or make sure your child uses tablets, phones and hand-held devices where you can see them. If possible, avoid online activity in a study or bedroom. This helps you keep an eye on how long your child is online as well as what websites they’re visiting.
  • Turn off all internet-accessing devices at night, including mobile phones, and keep portable devices in a common family space.
  • Together with your child, set up some simple and fair rules about internet use. For example, set a reasonable limit on your child’s screen time. Discuss how these rules apply outside your home – for example, at the local library. When your child follows the rules, give him lots of positive feedback.
  • Check the websites your child has been visiting by using the History tab in your browser.

 

Tips for providing a safe and appropriate online experience for children;

  • Help your child identify unsuitable material by naming some things to look out for. For example, ‘If you see a site with scary or rude pictures, swearing or angry words, let me know. It’s not a good site for you to look at’.
  • When your child gets a new app, joins a new website, starts a new account, signs up to a newsletter and so on, make sure the first thing you do is check and set privacy settings. Select the strictest privacy settings, turn off location sharing and so on.
  • Tell your child not to share personal details online. This includes surname, address, phone number, birth date and school.
  • Ask your child to let you know if a person he doesn’t know contacts him via email, instant message, or social networking. You can block these people from sending messages again.