A common theme amongst all of our cybersecurity articles is the concept of the internet as a tool, requiring basic user education and training for safe, optimal usage. Considering kids are getting their hands on technology earlier than ever, parents and guardians must take it upon themselves to teach their children to respect the power of the world wide web. While the internet provides us with incredible educational and entertainment possibilities, it can also provide access to inappropriate content and predatory individuals. Teaching the next generation to safely use the incredible tools at their fingertips may seem like a daunting task, but rest assured that this is no more monumental than guiding your child to make smart choices elsewhere in life.
First, it’s important to understand professional recommendations from associations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC), which provide detailed guidelines for age-appropriate usage based off of comprehensive studies following behaviors like language acquisition, sleep patterns, and concentration, as well as common-sense practices that all users should learn to follow to use online resources in a safe and effective manner.
Currently, the AAP recommends the following for screen-time allowances, according to age:
For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
Focusing more on older children who are more capable of using technology with minimal supervision, the NCAC outlines some great tips to discuss with your children about online safety and how to enjoy technology responsibly:
Spend time having fun with your parents online and helping them understand technology!
Never post your personal information, such as a cell phone number, home number, home address, or your location on any social networking site or through mobile apps like Snapchat or Instagram.
Never meet in person with anyone you first “met” on the internet. If someone asks to meet you, tell your parents or guardian right away. Some people may not be who they say they are.
Check with your parents before you post pictures of yourself or others online. Do not post inappropriate pictures of anyone.
Never respond to mean or rude texts, messages, and e-mails. Delete any unwanted messages. You may need to delete friends who continuously bother you or post things that are not appropriate.
NEVER share your password with anyone, including your best friend. The only people who should know your password are your parents or guardian.
If you wouldn’t say something to another person’s face, don’t text it or post it online.
Do not download or install software or anything on your computer or cell phone before checking with your parents or guardian.
Use the privacy settings of social networking sites.
If anything makes you feel uncomfortable online, while gaming or when using your cell phone, talk with your parents or guardian right away.
The main takeaway from the professionals? Be a part of your child’s online learning experience! Online resources are an incredible opportunity for you and your family to take advantage of, and they are best utilized together. The negative impacts of excessive digital media consumption (such as inhibited language development, poor sleep and eating habits, poor attention, or low self esteem associated with social media usage) can be easily mitigated with common sense rules - but only if those rules are communicated effectively as part of a family conversation and integrated into the family dynamic. The AAP recommends developing a family media plan to help implement good digital media habits, as well as to initiate important conversations with your child about responsible usage. You can find the AAP’s family media planning page here, to start evaluating your family’s digital media usage and to get involved in your child’s online learning experience.
Remember that the internet is, first and foremost, a tool. Educate yourself on safe usage and get talking with your family about their digital behaviors. Creating a safe environment for your child to talk to you about their experience online is a crucial step towards securing their safety and well-being in an increasingly digital world. Remember to stay connected - not just online, but as a family! And, as always, feel free to give us a call if you’re concerned about digital safety! We’re always happy to help in any way we can to make using technology a safe, fun, and friendly experience!