How And When To Introduce Your Child To The Internet

We start our blog, remembering noted English writer – Lewis Carroll. Legend has it, that he first narrated the story of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to young Alice Liddell, when he and the reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed a boat up the River Thames on 4 July 1862. So in the story, young Alice falls down a rabbit hole, discovering Wonderland and goes on to have one amazing adventure after the other.

In today’s world, such a wonderland would be the internet! And children, don’t have to do anything as troublesome as falling down a hole to discover the internet. They just have to turn to their laptops or smartphones to reach a virtual wonderland.

While it is always a good idea to introduce ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to both adults and children, have you wondered if there is a RIGHT TIME to introduce your kids to the internet and the wonders of the cyber world? And how? For all we know, our child has already been taking giant strides onto the internet long before mastering their alphabets and numbers.

Remember that the internet is everywhere and it can be wonderful… Yet, unrestricted access to it can also be disadvantageous to our young ones. As parents, we have to try to make kids aware of the pitfalls and benefits of the internet and we have to ensure the online sphere generates a positive experience.

Quick tip: Pre-schoolers and Montessori kids are too young to handle the internet alone. They need total adult supervision when they are shown cartoons or videos online. And such experiences can be turned into a positive moment too. Parents can say out aloud, all that they are doing BEFORE playing the desired video every time and encouraging children to repeat or answer.

For example, we can say, “Let’s turn on our laptop. Is our internet security working? Which sign shows that?” Showing them the Intel Security McAfee Shield icon, “This one, right? Now let us look for a safe site. Which color says it’s good to go? Green? That’s right! This one is green. Let’s click here, OK?”

You get the drift, right?

Tweens (children aged 12-years old) can become apt pupils for digital citizenship training. Being a generation Y or even a millennial, they understand its benefits and just need to be prepared to use it wisely and safely. This can be a good time to help make them aware of both the pitfalls and the advantages of the internet. It is at this age that Tweens start using the internet to complete various assignments and also to check out music/dance videos.

So what role should the parent play when kids are being introduced to the internet?

  1. Mentor their presence online: While we would prefer supervising kids online discreetly, a better idea would be to mentor and help them build their presence online (help them signup for an email account)
  2. Educate kids about stranger danger: Discuss with kids about who are ‘strangers’ and what can constitute as ‘danger’ when they are online. Channel their curiosity via the right channels so that they access information only from trustworthy and reputed portals online
  3. Highlight privacy: Highlight how anyone can access information shared online by kids. Ensure to set ground rules on what and how much information should outsiders be able to see about kids online
  4. Set ground rules: On time limits, allowed social media platforms, websites, handling inappropriate behavior online, etc. Encourage kids to follow them proactively. Stick to the rules, though you may make some allowance like personal phones and longer internet hours
  5. Instill responsibility: Showcase how the internet is a privilege and a responsibility as much as it is a constant wonderland with the information being available online. Let kids know that if they behave responsibly, then they stand to get more leeway later, else lose internet privileges
  6. Become a friend and a guide: Through open conversations, gain confidence of kids so that they feel free to share doubts and concerns. As a role model and a guide, help kids create their online persona with care. Let children know that you are watching, for then they will accordingly modify their online behaviour. Children do take risks online but 56% of them affirmed they would change their online behaviour if they knew their parents were watching- (Source: Intel Security’s ‘Teens Tweens Technology Report 2015 in India)
  7. Discuss malware, scams, spam (email and videos) and their effects: Kids would have heard a lot about cybercrimes so enlighten them on the risks that online activities can bring
  8. Drill down the concept of ‘Too Much Information’ (TMI): For kids, the temptation to share thoughts, ideas, events, photos is too much to resist. But there is always a consequence. Make your child aware of oversharing and its effects

That’s it for today.

Do share any other tips and comments you may have on this topic. Help your children enjoy the Wonderland, that is the internet and empower them to become ideal digital citizens.

Stay safe online, folks!