I know there are tons of posts of this theme but as my kids grow older, it has become more of a theme for us too: my first-born will turn 7 and start school in August. She will have more freedom, more unsupervised time and her own mobile then. She has learnt to read and write, and she knows how to do Google searches.
This must be a chock for many coming from other countries but in Finland it is pretty common for kids to walk to and from school; Finland is a fairly safe country. Even in Helsinki the traffic is the biggest worry. Also, I know that eg in New Zealand kids under 13 can not be alone at home, but here it is quite common for school kids to be home when parents are working. As long as the child feels ok with it.
Our first born is quite a responsible child, we will be taking her to and from the school (her little brother will have to be taken to and from the preschool next doors anyway) and we will pay for morning and afternoon care at school (first graders only have 4-5 hours of school, eg 9am-1pm), which have to be provided for first-graders. But I realise that the time for a bit more unsupervised time will not be too far away.
How are things now with our kids and Internet use? Pretty much the only use they have on their own on the desktop computer, on the Ipads or our mobiles is playing games. Our desktop computer is in the living room, the Ipads are out of their reach so that they have to ask for them and obviously the mobiles belong to us, so far it has been easy to keep on eye what is going on. We have an old mobile which is for their use as a camera, my hubby hid everything but the camera and at the moment their is no sim card in it. Obviously together we have done Google searches, watched Youtube videos, either just for fun or to do some research (eg when my son wanted to know how volcanos work). And their older cousins occasionally let them be a part of their mobile use, so our kids have an idea eg about Instagram and Spotify etc.
Internet can be such a wonderful thing, but it can also be frightening. We can not always be their to see what our kids do. How can I protect them? There are such different approaches; some don’t let their kids to use any equipment and say the school will teach. Some don’t seem to have any limits. Some follow the age limits, some don’t. What about peer pressure? And bullying… on line and in the real world.
As often, I resorted to our cousin WhatsApp group and my colleagues to hear various solutions and thoughts. What me and my husband ended up with (so far):
Internet is inevitable;
- better to be actively involved in introducing it to our children now when they still listen to us and we can still educate them in their use.
- We want our kids to learn more than to just play (I just read an article about how this so called digi native generation is good at flipping around but not all can even type)
- We created their own profile on the desktop. They learn about logging in and out, about password safety.
- By accident I realised typing is quite a good way for the younger one to learn how to combine capital and small letters (what you see on the keyboard versus the screen), something he has not been interested in learning otherwise
- First we put in one of those net nanny programmes but it slowed the computer down so much that we decided to take it away. We use the computer together now anyway. But maybe later.
- When we use the computer, do searches etc together, we talk about what we do and how we do it. How it actually works. How there are ads that may lead you to dodgy pages. How some nice search words can have an other adult meaning and result in completely other pictures than expected (eg pussy cat…).
- We had a talk about how there are unsafe people online and the unsafe people have also added content to the Internet that is unsafe or scary. If our children ever see anything scary or dodgy, they should always talk with us about it. We will not be angry.
- Never ever should they reveal their location online.
- I bought a childrens book: “How does the Internet work”. Especially my daughter has been very interested even in the history of there being a time when there was no Internet. (“Really??!!”)
- With time we will make an effort to load games that are “in” on an Ipad, maybe that way our kids will not be excluded from what is happening but also not completely outraged if they are, at least initially, not allowed to have games on their phone(s). If they walk to school, I do not want them to have games on their mobile that might cause them to play and walk and not notice the traffic.
Last but not least: mobiles are turned off at nights.
I’d love to hear: What’s your approach or angle on it?