Keeping Children Safe On-line
Keeping Children Safe On-line
By Paula-Elizabeth Jordan
I chose to write an article about keeping children safe online after I witness some very inappropriate behaviour at a local park. Some teenagers were having a conversation that first wasn’t one to be had where there were mothers and children around. Second, their attitude toward the subject was totally unacceptable and sadly, I don’t think they even realised. Because we now live in a “technological information age” where you have instant access to virtually any type of information that exists, it made me wonder whether their attitude, in part, came from their online activity? So I decided to write my next article about keeping children safe online.
First I would like to let you in to a secret – my present technological skills are a bit basic. So I asked myself; what would I do myself to keep children safe on line? – You’re brain tends to find the answers to the questions you ask it and I realised that actually my (slight) lack of technological skills would actually somewhat put me at an advantage here because I’ve had to work harder to answer the question. You can definitely take clear steps to keeping your children as safe as possible and I would strongly encourage starting young and continue as you mean to go on.
The first thing I would recommend obviously stems from my Montessori background. Maria Montessori was very passionate about get children “doing” as much as possible for themselves. Her advice I know would have been to get “Real Life Skills” first. I have to say that I tend to agree. I think that it is an advantage if children can write and type. Play outside and play board games in addition to playing any online games. “Real Life Skills” “indirectly” support children in all other areas of development. For example, pegging helps children develop a good pincer-grip for writing. Pouring helps children develop good hand/eye co-ordination. Online skills definitely do not “indirectly” give them such a broad range other skills. So there’s an obvious advantage to limiting “technology time”. I personally would go as far as saying completely avoid all technology until at least the age of five, or six. This is definitely doable!
I know families who prefer to bring up children in a more Montessori/ Steiner way with natural/wooden toys and no technology. The children naturally benefit highly. Let’s be honest; the extra effort their parents put in to doing this subconsciously communicates that they are willing to go the extra mile for what they feel will benefit them and this alone is very positive subconscious communication. Believe me; you want to keep the subconscious communication as positive as possible.
I would also extend this to say; encourage children to be as skilled as possible. People “like” capable people – it’s very attractive and naturally prevents “neediness” (one of the most unattractive characteristics that are sure to hold anyone back). In the same way children are attracted to capable children, so get then doing “Real World Activities” first. Childhood is an excellent time for children to experiment with different things and really learn where their “interests”/ “talent” lies.
Does this mean I’m suggesting that children should be “ferried around to lots of different activities? – “No”; rather, they should have regular time to do a variety of different activities to give them a “complete” and “holistic” set of skills. This includes more focused – practical life/ puzzles etc. – activities at home, plus sporty activities, musical activities, social activities and family activities. For me, family activities also include more unusual things like doing an archaeological dig for the day. I’m certain this has to be possible and the more areas your child is able to experience; first they are going to gain and increasing number of skills that will naturally support their self-image and well-being. Second, they are going to have a far more clear idea of what they want to do with their life. Having a focus is very important because it will automatically prevent you from other “harmful” distractions such as “dodgy online forums/activity” and other things like drugs when older.
Another factor that I would say strengthens this point is that “we” as adults now – at least late twenties and above!! – did not have the computer access children have now and I know plenty of people older than me who not only have better computer skills – that isn’t actually difficult (!!) – they are quite the computer whiz! – So if “we” managed to learn not just proficient, an expert level of computer skills from starting learning during our teenage years and early twenties, I’m sure that introducing computers from around five/ six years old is definitely only going to be beneficial. Children learn quickly, they will not fall behind.
I definitely agree in setting limits to any “technological time” that they do have. The more limited their access, the less opportunity they have to engage in something inappropriate. Also, I would definitely limit what they have access too; you want to know what they’re up to online. I know children who have limited access to technology and they’re popular and doing well at school; a lot of it is about using common sense! I will expand on how to limit what they have access to a bit later.
The ways you could set time limits are for example; they earn their “technological time” depending on how helpful they are. Please note, you would need to stick to this – no technology if there is no help. Also, it would be wise to have a maximum limit in case your child is so super helpful they’re asking you for two-three hours of “technology time”! You could also set a condition that says they need to have done at least one hour of something very active whether it is sport or simply playing outside in the fresh air with friends. The reasons this is a good “condition” is because there is a lot of concern amongst doctors and health practitioners that as a nation we are becoming less active and therefore less fit due to all of our online activity. So, first, this is actually connected to being online; therefore, when sensibly explains any child will understand the benefit of the “rule” – trust me! Second, it gives children great habits from the start and gets them doing something active before they’re allowed to come in to sit down and have any “technology time”. As you can see there are sensible ways you can set limits without having to feel like it’s just because you said “No”! 🙂
There is the; “out of sight out of mind” approach. Basically the less technology there is available for children to ask to play on the more likely they are to find other things to do and actually use their imagination! I would really encourage parents to avoid buying children their own iPad until somewhere between the ages of 8-13. The reasons I picked these ages is first, I personally would not feel comfortable giving a child there own iPad below 8 years of age; there are too many other things that would be better for them to do. Does that mean I wouldn’t allow them any “technology time”? Absolutely not; just not on their own iPad! Also, if you wait too long to give them their own iPad – beyond 13 years of age – it could have a reverse effect. Let me explain this with a comparative example. Children never allowed sweet will often “pounce” on them and eat as many as possible when they do have access. So you don’t want to limit technology to the extent it has an adverse effect. I say observe your child, and make a decision based on first how much you think they can “handle it”, second, how personally comfortable you are with allowing it.
Another way that is sure to naturally limit children’s desire to spend time on line and I’m sorry to say that some parents may find this difficult; role-model doing other things yourself and put your phone away during “Family Time”!! J I know that a lot of working parents need their phone/ iPad/ laptop for work; this is why you need to definitely schedule “Family Time” where all technology is put away and you spend quality time together doing things like talking!! – This is a really useful way to get to know your child, how they feel and what their “experience” of life is really like for them! – Okay, I’m being a little facetious; too many times when out and about I have seen parents on the phone, sometimes just flicking through messages, completely ignoring their child/children. I definitely don’t think this is done intentionally; rather, I think it’s more habitual. So please, I implore, get yourselves into the habit of having quality “Family Time” with No Technology!!!!
Finally, I did say that I would expand a bit more on how to limit what your children have access too. Well obviously being a “tech-No-saurus” (!) this is something that I personally cannot answer. So what do you do when you don’t know how to do something? – Fine someone who does, and can either teach you, or do it for you! The first expert that came to my mind is Bill Latchford. I first became acquainted with Bill on Twitter; his Twitter contact name is, @PCOorg. He was actually one of my first followers! I quickly had a strong sense that Bill was very passionate about what he did and for him, it really mattered, it wasn’t just a job to keep children safe online. Bill has worked with families and spoken in schools and with Skype and Facetime, etc. it does even necessary matter if you’re not geographically near. His website is; www.protectchildrenonline.org . This is his area of expertise and he will definitely be able to assist you with this. Also, I’m certain if you Googled “Keeping Children Safe Online” you would find many other experts too.
For more information please email me at; firstname.lastname@example.org or message me through Twitter/Instagram @FamilyTeamCoach, or through Facebook/LinkedIn as Paula-Elizabeth Jordan. 🙂
Paula-Elizabeth Jordan is a Montessori trained Child-Development Expert who’s passionate about helping “Family Teams” work together for the benefit of each other, as this is how successful, well-balanced, happy children are raised. She has been Montessori trained for over ten years now and also has a degree in Theology with an Art minor. She is presently writing her own book entitled; “How to Bring up A Successful Human-Being”. www.paulaelizabeth.com