Adequate parenting in this age of technology is a big question in the minds of a lot of parents and guardians. As a parent, I am beginning to understand how daunting it can be to keep up with the digital lifestyle of our children.
From age 1, they want to touch, press and click, maybe because the device looks like a toy. From my observation, I realized that a child could easily find their way around any device with minimal to no help and often prefer to watch cartoons on mobile rather than on TV.
These abilities and curiosity increase as they grow older; which is why it is so difficult to keep up.
The internet has lots of opportunities, and it is the responsibility of parents/guardians to ensure their ‘child’s safety online while harnessing the benefits.
Children of different ages have varied internet needs and ‘their associated risks. For children of preschool age (3 -5 years), some risks identified are: spending too much time on the internet and exposure to inappropriate content.
To handle these risks, set usage time limits to a specific number of hours per day, depending on a school season or a holiday.
Also, ensure access to only child-specific sites or applications, monitor their use and create awareness about online safety the same way you speak to them about talking to strangers or crossing the road.
Similarly, young children between the ages of 6 and 10 tend to have a bit of autonomy while using the internet.
This increases their exposure to internet risks identified above, and others, such as cyberbullying, meeting strangers, inappropriate content and illegal conduct.
To mitigate these risks, restrictions such as password protection on applications are necessary to prevent them from content that is not age-friendly.
Also, avoid them owning personal devices; if they must, they should be shared and used only within communal areas where their usage can be supervised.
For pre-teens (11-13years), because they are already in secondary school and starting to feel like adults, breaking rules and distancing themselves from their parents, can result in their parents feeling less in control. The associated risks are enormous, ranging from engaging in risky behaviours such as contacting
strangers and even arranging physical meetings, sharing personal information, cyberbullying, and cyber grooming, to the impact of social media on a child’s mental well-being. To deal with these risks, continuous discussion, awareness and capacity development on internet safety are required without judging and frightening the child.
Similarly, supervising teenagers (14 -17), online interactions can be complicated because at this age they will typically have access to multiple devices within and outside their homes. Also, they own various social media accounts where they can use their real name or screen name.
In conclusion, keeping abreast with all the emerging technologies alongside other responsibilities can be challenging. However, as the saying ‘little drops of water make an ‘ocean’.
It begins with developing interest, investing time to acquire knowledge, and a commitment to continuous learning, unlearning and relearning.
In addition, learning with the children can foster better relationships; where your child knows more, encourage him or her to teach you. Internet safety is everyone’s responsibility, so let’s win together.
*Oluwatoni Falade is a Cybersecurity Awareness Trainer