Children today are increasingly spending a lot of time on the internet. They are more dependent on being online for things that we used to do without the internet, like homework and assignments. They are at a loss to even imagine a world without Google. The internet is also mind boggling in terms of the various kinds of shady and completely wrong characters lurking out there. Let us take a good look at this today.
I know children who fake their age to get on Facebook, there are some who create profiles on all social sites faking their ages. This is just one group of kids. There are others who get on to dating sites and get into all sorts of messy things there. The overall conclusion is that kids and the internet are a potent combination that go very bad. The number of people who can make a mark on the impressionable mind of a child and scar them for life is exceptionally high online. Children also intrinsically tend to trust or believe what they see or hear easily. The very thought of a child getting into chat rooms with people who with wrong intentions is deeply disturbing.
The other downside of children getting online is the fact that their attention spans get really sparse and few in frequency. There is also a constant tendency to rely on Google for everything. This is in stark contrast to our times when we used to do old fashioned studying and creative writing to get assignments and homework done. Kids are googling even the simplest things to get work done. So the prospect of them growing up and getting work done looks very remote and unsettling.
In the US, some 34 per cent of children aged between five and 15 use their own tablet computer now rather than one belonging to their parents or school, up from 19 per cent last year. Almost two-thirds of children (62 per cent) use a tablet at home, up from 42 per cent last year. 11 per cent of children aged three and four have their own tablet, up from three per cent last year. The number of five to 15-year-olds who use a tablet to go online has doubled to 42 per cent since last year.The most popular methods used by parents to keep their kids safe on the web are supervising their children online (84 per cent), talking to children about managing online risks (78 per cent) and having rules in place about use of the internet (82 per cent). ( Source: Ofcom’s annual Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes report.)
If like me, you too find the above data mind boggling, welcome to the club! The bad news is that this is just starting and the numbers are expected to rise to alarming levels with every passing quarter. There is now clear proof that more and more kids are online. What this means is also that physical activity is taking a backseat and spoiling the possibility of a healthy lifestyle. There are studies that clearly show that children now are not able to walk, run or play as much as we did and their endurance is less than ours. This is a big worry.
So what do parents do? Do we stop them from accessing the internet? That would be counter productive. They will find other devices in other places and whatever control you have will be gone. So the best idea is to talk to them and make them aware of the dangers that lurk on the internet.
Give them a set of safety practices to follow.
Tell them about the kind of people they can meet.
Also make it clear that anonymity is a major part of the internet and nothing is what it seems.
Having done that, ensure that the internet access points at home have auditing and monitoring functions enabled.
Do a weekly review of where your kids have been on the internet.
Windows 8 has a feature where you can create a child/restricted account where you can control access and audit weekly, use it.
And most importantly, trust your child but clearly tell them that trust and security and two different things.
This is just an indicative list and by no means exhaustive, feel free to add what you do and let u know
I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.