The online world, just like real-life, presents challenges for children to overcome. Here are three skills you can teach your child to build their confidence and resilience so they can get the most out of the internet and navigate it safely.
You don’t need to be an expert on the latest apps, YouTubers or online games to help your child thrive in a digital world. If they can master critical thinking, communication and use of safety tools, they’ll be set for safer and happier online lives.
Lesson 1: Think critically
Encourage your child to question what they see and hear. This isn’t just about being able to spot misinformation, fake news or lies. It’s also about being able to recognise when a website is giving you advice that is either wrong or potentially harmful. It’s about knowing when someone is peer pressuring you to join in with viral online crazes - like the recent ‘Tide Pod’ challenge where people were encouraged to eat laundry detergent pods - that could end in personal harm.
What can you do?
One of the simplest ways of encouraging critical thinking is the ‘Who wrote this, and why?’ test.
When your child sits down to read something, make sure they take a moment to ask themselves the following questions:
• Is this trying to sell me something?
• Is it trying to make me share private, personal information or inappropriate images?
• Is it encouraging me to do something that could embarrass or hurt someone?
• Is the message overly negative or trying to affect the way I think?
If the answer to any of these is yes, they should view the content with skepticism and talk to you or another trusted adult about what they have seen.
Read here for more information about critical thinking and fake news
Lesson 2: Speak up
Talk to your child if things go wrong or if something online upsets them. They should feel confident that they can come to you for help, even if they’ve been doing something they know they shouldn’t.
Children also need guidance on how to communicate safety and politely with others. Parents can help simply by being a role model in how they communicate and interact with others online. Think about what you share, how you comment or how often you use your own devices, and explain to your child how they can make better choices. Find out more here
What can you do?
• Don’t wait until something bad happens. Reassure your child that they can tell you anything and you won’t get angry with them, whatever they’ve done.
• If something does go wrong, knowing their safety tools – such as where and how to report bad things that happen – is key for a positive experience online.
Read here for more information about better digital conversations at home
Lesson 3: Use the safety tools!
Know how to adjust safety and privacy settings. These are your basic tools for keeping your family safer, by filtering what they can search for and see, limiting who they can speak to online and where they can go in their digital life.
What can you do?
• One of the first things you should help your child to do when setting up a new social media app or subscribing to a games forum or online service is to limit the people who can contact them.
• Explain how they can block people who make them feel uncomfortable. Teach them to look out for the settings symbol (often a cog) as soon as they start using a new service.
• Remind your child that tools are there to help them stay in control – not to stop them having fun.
Read here for more information about safety tools and settings
This article is by Parent Zone, the experts in digital life.