Alice Judge-Talbot, a digital consultant, award-winning blogger of More than Toast and happy single mum of two wrote a brilliant guest blog for us here at Capture Education on how to introduce your children to the digital world.
When is the right time? How do you go about it? And why it is so important in this digital age to encourage children to use the internet without over indulging. Alice gave us some brilliant tips and personal experience as a both a mother and a digital consultant on how we can slowly introduce digital to our children.
The internet is a completely different place to 17 years ago. Which, goodness gracious I’m feeling old, was when I first discovered it.
I remember how exciting it was: from the 60 minutes a day limit my mum imposed on me (back then every second you were online cost money) to tying up the house telephone line (to my friends on MSN messenger: “brb, mum needs the phone L” and the seemingly limitless amount of information available at our fingertips. Having been used to a dated Encarta 95 DVD, this was mind-blowing.
There were only a few websites I used to frequent back in the day – mostly because there were only a few websites online. With no Social Networks available, I spent my days chatting to strangers on Yahoo! Chat, nattering to school friends on MSN Messenger and surfing the very first blog I discovered: Audrey’s World. gURL was my bible, an online magazine for teen girls that also had the facility for you to host your own website (they weren’t called blogs back then), which is where it was cool to show of your Microsoft Paint and HTML skills. I taught myself how to design websites from library books and BOOM! This was when I began my love affair with the online world.
In those days my website was full of intensely interesting information about boys I liked. And the internet hasn’t changed much in this respect; in 2016, as a single parent and lifestyle blogger, is it any wonder my current-day site has evolved to include a dating section?
I’m a long-term blogger and Digital Consultant so like to think I’m pretty well-versed on most areas of the internet. And now, as a mother of a 4 and a 6 year old, I’m starting to think about how my children will survive in their own online world.
It’s completely different to when I was their age, back in the day where we still had only 4 TV channels and a cassette tape was the height of technology. In contrast, my kids learn with interactive whiteboards at school, watch television programmes via apps on a screen – iPad, TV, computer – and do homework on wifi-connected laptops. A far cry from the dusty blackboards, dot matrix printers and actual pencil-to-paper work that was the norm at my school.
Thinking about it, their existing level of IT literacy is incredible. They can unlock my iPhone and both of my iPads, and my six year old knows how to operate all my favourite apps: Spotify, YouTube, iMessage… they’re teeny tiny tech geniuses.
Which is why it’s very important for me to ensure they are introduced to the Digital world in the most appropriate way. As adults we all know there is material out there on the world wide web that we most definitely wouldn’t want our children seeing and, even worse, there are less-than-lovely people we need to protect them from.
But how do we do this? Drawing on both my professional experience and my position as a mother, here are my top tips:
Restrict their access.
This one’s the easiest. You can buy tablets aimed at kids, but if your children are using iPads it can be a little trickier. YouTube kids is fab for filtering out unwanted content, as is the DisneyLife app. Allow access to those apps you know are safe and use settings to restrict access to the rest.
I’m not in the business of terrifying my kids but it’s worth having a discussion or two with them to explain the dangers of making contact with unknown people on the internet. After all, ‘stranger danger’ is a concept in real life, why shouldn’t it work online?
I’m almost always within ear-shot of my children when they’re online: I think it’s important I’m aware of the videos they’re watching or content they’re consuming. This may mean I’ve watched more than my fair share of toy unboxing YouTube clips, but it’s well worth it.
Respect age limits.
Social Networks and other apps have age restrictions for a reason. It’s widely 13, though some do go all the way up to the age of 18.
Befriend your kids.
If your children are on Social Networks, it should be a condition that you’re their friend. And if they make connections with someone you don’t know or feel uncomfortable with, go ahead and query it.
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