Internet safety for kids has become a new area for research. This is because up until the year 1991, internet was not available to the public, let alone preschool children.
With the digital age advancing at an alarming pace, preschool children now have direct access to the internet and all the information available on the world wide web.
Furthermore, touchscreen devices have made it even more accessible for young children. This is because touchscreen technology doesn’t require refined motor skills needed to use a mouse and keyboard.
Why is internet safety important?
It doesn’t mean that when your child is using the internet at home in your living room that he or she (or you, for that matter) is safe from the dangers of the internet.
There are several factors which your child can be exposed to, which highlight why internet safety for children is important.
The three main risks children face while using the internet are:
- Content risk – this refers to content that children may consider upsetting or uncomfortable. Examples are violence, images of animal cruelty or pornography
- Conduct risk – this includes children acting in ways that may hurt others or sharing personal information with an unknown source
- Contact risk – this refers to children coming into contact with people they don’t know, leading them into dangerous situations
The following are more specific internet safety risks for preschoolers and older children:
- Scams – your information can become vulnerable and stolen by scammers which can result in major financial loss
- Viruses – viruses can be contracted simply by clicking on what seems to be a friendly link. Viruses can take over your computer and can be used by hackers to carry out illegal activities
- Predators – paedophiles posing as young children can easily lure your child into meeting with them. These are dangerous situations which you want to avoid at all costs
- Pornography – there is pornography all over the internet and your child may unwittingly be exposed to graphic imagery which is not suitable for their age
- Bullying – many young children are exposed to cyber bullies. Being bullied online can be extremely traumatic and can have incomprehensible effects on your little one
Internet safety for kids
A recent study with 70 4-year-old children was conducted and the results are nothing short of alarming. The study examined what children actually understand about the internet and the following was found:
- Only 40% of the children were able to accurately describe the internet
- 73% of the children said that they would give their address to someone on the internet
- 70% said they would also give their age to someone on the internet
- 89% of the children said that they would click on a pop-up even if they didn’t know what the pop-up was about.
Internet safety tips for parents
It is the sole responsibility of the parents and caregivers of a child to teach them about the internet, how to use it and how to only engage in safe content, conduct and contact.
The following are some ideas to help you make sure your child develops a healthy relationship with the internet:
- Use child-friendly search engines (Kiddle) and content providers such as ABC Kids, YouTube Kids etc
- Set up a folder in your bookmarks with links to your child’s favourite websites or apps so that your child can find them easily
- Develop a set of guidelines related to screen time and internet usage in the house. For example, decide on screen-free areas of your home and screen-free times of the day. Discuss the rules about giving out personal information as well as which games, websites or apps are allowed
- Stay close to your little one while he or she is using the internet. This will give you the opportunity to monitor how the internet is being used and to intervene when something inappropriate shows up on the screen. This is also a chance to make your child aware of the dangers that must be avoided when using the internet
- Update your privacy settings, turn off the location, disable one-click payment options and use parental controls on all the devices your child uses
- Make sure older siblings follow the same rules when supervising their younger siblings
- Talk to your children and make them aware of the dangers of talking to strangers on the internet and that it is never a good idea to arrange a meeting with someone they don’t know. Teach them what signs to look out for and to inform you immediately when someone is showing predatory signs
The internet is not all doom and gloom. In fact, it can be a hub of information and can provide many opportunities for learning and expanding.
It’s therefore extremely important to make sure your preschooler is fully aware of the potential danger that can be found online.
Furthermore, by teaching your child how to identify and avoid situations that may be harmful or dangerous, you are making sure that they remain safe while using the internet.
Kay-Dee Educare Centre – Preschool Cape Town
Kay-Dee Educare Centre is highly focused on early childhood development which involves making sure children have a healthy relationship with the internet.
We encourage internet safety for kids and will assist in making sure their screen-time is kept to a minimal.
Contact us for more information about our educare programs.