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Your Primary School Child’s Internet Journey

Posted on 08 March 2013

For young children, the internet and mobile devices are simply fun.  5 – 7 year olds might enjoy catching up with Peppa Pig,  Bob the Builder or Ben10.  Even if they are just for fun these kinds of devices and websites can help to teach younger children important skills such as how to type, how to improve their hand and eye co-ordination and how to read better.  But because they are young, they still need you to be involved and engaged, offering guidance and supervision – just as they do in the real world.  The biggest obstacle can be the amount of screen time and an unwillingness to ‘turn off.’  For this reason, even at this early age, ground rules need to be put in place.  Young children will have difficulty in understanding the difference between real life and fantasy or adverts and editorial.  They need to learn from an early age that they can’t trust everyone online.  You may want to consider the following:

  1. Set up parental controls and Google SafeSearch on your child’s computer.  Remember they may not be 100% effective and they are not a substitution for parental supervision
  2. Ensure that your child is on the computer in an open space, not tucked away in their room where you can’t see them.  If you are not able to sit with them try and pop in and out so you can monitor what your child is doing and engage with the game they are playing.
  3. Don’t assume that your child is only accessing age-appropriate services and websites – they could be influenced by adverts they have seen or older siblings.  Even sites like ‘YouTube’ have a minimum age limit of 13.
  4. Children are growing up far more savvy that we did.  Whilst your head is turned they may have figured out how to use your mobile.  So keep an eye on this and set up controls on your phone too if need be.
  5. It is never too early to talk to them about the importance of keeping personal information to themselves.  Just as they wouldn’t give their home address to a stranger on the street, they must understand that online is no different
  6. Keep the lines of communication open.  Always encourage them to ask you anything, especially if they see anything online that upsets them.

As your child gets older it will be very usual to see them using some kind of electronic device most of the time- they may be using Wikipedia for school, listening to their ipod or playing on their games console.  It is important to note however that a quarter of home internet users aged 8-12 in the UK have a profile of Bebo, Facebook or MySpace. (the legal age is 13)  The Byron Review of 2008 noted that ‘ between 5 and 11 years old is the time when children begin exploring websites beyond the boundaries originally set for them by their parents and also when they start playing a wider range of video games.’  This age group is a real turning point when young people are embracing new technologies both at home and at school. It is a crucial time for parents to help them stay in control of their digital world.   Giving out personal information, playing violent games, cyberbullying and meeting strangers online are all topics that need to be discussed. 

Things to think about:

  1. Agree limits about how much time they spend on the internet
  2. Remember that lots of devices now have internet access so make rules about all of these
  3. Don’t be pressurised into buying your child anything you don’t think they are old enough for – for example, if you only want them to have a mobile for calling and texting, don’t get them one with other features.
  4. If you do buy them a mobile, ensure you discuss with them when it is appropriate to use it and how to stay safe with it. i.e. not whilst walking home from school
  5. Remind your children that the internet is a public place and that anything they post online could be seen by anyone and could stay there forever.