My attention has been drawn to a BBC Education article which reveals the screen habits of our 5 to 16 year olds, and it makes quite sobering reading.
Whilst my friend Cathy at Nurturestore focusses on whether our children are watching too much TV, there was another statistic within the report that worried me much more.
Almost half of the 5 to 16 year olds surveyed had Internet access in their bedrooms. Almost half!
I believe very strongly that children have to learn how to use the Intenet much as they have to learn to drive a car. You wouldn’t just hand your 17 year old the keys to your car would you? No, they’ve grown up watching you drive, you’ve talked to them about what you’re doing when you drive, before they even get behind the wheel they know that you stop at red lights and give way at give way signs because they’ve seen you do it millions of times already. When they try driving for the first time you, or a driving instructor, will be sitting next to them, guiding them every step of the way. Similarly children should watch you using the Internet, should learn by surfing alongside you that you can’t always believe what you read, and that people aren’t always what they say they are. Even if you don’t sit over them every time they use it, you should always be aware of what they are doing on the Internet, and teaching them how to use it properly.
The best way to do this is to keep the Internet in communal areas, not bedrooms! I know it’s getting harder and harder these days with so many devices having Internet access on them – mobile phones, handheld gaming devices, console gaming devices all have it. But the Internet is not something that you can hand to your kids and let them get on with it. And if you’re not confident using the Internet yourself, engage the help of a friend to teach your kids about the Internet, much as you would engage a driving instructor.
I sometimes let the geekdaughter watch videos on Youtube. Under supervision of course. And it’s scary how quickly she can get from watching something I approve of to watching something I don’t, just by following the related items links at the end of each video clip.
Almost half of 5 to 16 year olds have Internet access in their bedrooms. I can only see that percentage increasing as more and more Internet-connected devices aimed at kids come onto the market. You can’t prevent your kids from accessing the Internet, but you owe it to them to teach them how to use it responsibly.