We’ve all heard about the dangers of the internet and how it can be especially hazardous for our kids. You’ve likely heard horror stories about children exposed to adult images, scams, and cyberbullying. It’s natural to hear stories and be overly protective. However, in 2023, when technology is king, it can be considered unwise to completely shield your kids from using computers and the internet because it can also be helpful for their lives now and in the future.
Here are some reasons why it’s essential to teach kids about tech and digital literacy and steps you can take to ensure that they are safe when they go online.
If your child is in school, they’re likely already using technology. They use it in the classroom to learn math and science, go online to do their homework, and probably even take their tests on a digital platform. Therefore, you don’t want to tell your kids they can never go online. Doing so could cause them to fall behind at school or stunt their mental growth.
Even if your children aren’t going to school just yet, they can still learn a lot by watching educational videos that appear on sites like YouTube. Many videos on that platform are hosted by former teachers and educational professionals who can teach your kids a lot. There are also many online tutoring websites where kids can learn about any subject without leaving home. These technological advancements also paved the way for virtual learning at a Cyber elementary school or Online Elementary School to be a viable option for millions of kids.
Using technology and being digitally literate now can also help prepare your kids for the future. Computers aren’t going away. Instead, they’ll evolve as time goes on. When your children grow up, most professions will involve technology in some shape or form. By safely using tech now, your kids can get used to working with computers and looking at screens. This experience will eventually make them more valuable to future employers.
While there are a handful of perks to being online, the internet has its fair share of threats. Among them is a growing list of scams that trick users of all ages. By simply navigating to the wrong website or clicking the incorrect link, your children could download a virus, malware, or spyware, allowing hackers to watch their every move.
Teach your kids about these threats in a way they understand. Think about the phishing scams that are sent by hackers to trick you into thinking that an email they’re sending is from a legitimate source. They may pretend to be your employer or the IRS to make you fearful, so you’ll click the link without thinking, and if you do, the hacker gains a doorway into your device.
Kids also need to be aware of online scams like phishing. Hackers may try to trick children by making it seem like they won a prize or by featuring a character from a TV show they like. Let the kiddos know messages that seem too good to be true probably are. Tell them to come to you whenever they get a message like that or one that seems suspicious in any way before they open it.
Think about ways to teach your kids about digital literacy and technical ideas, even if they’re not that tech-savvy. One way is to be attentive throughout the conversation with your kids. So, if you’re telling older kids about the dangers of using public Wi-Fi or how to use a VPN to disguise their location online, pay attention to their faces. If they look confused, stop there, ask what they’re unsure of, and explain it differently until they understand.
You can also incorporate storytelling, so the lesson isn’t so technical. Perhaps you can equate a dangerous online situation to something they have seen in a movie. You could also teach them with visual aids. Another solution may be to watch them when they go online and explain things as you see them so they can learn in real time.
Even if you have these initial conversations, digital literacy education must continue as your children spend time online. When they ask to try a new social media platform or software, check it out before they try. Research the risks online and then educate your children on what they may see and how to avoid trouble.
It’s also important to be prepared for a possible discussion if your kids happen to see something inappropriate online:
1. Praise the child for coming to you instead of keeping it a secret.
2. Ask your kids what they’re feeling and how you can help them to cope and move forward with a better understanding.
3. If possible, report the inappropriate content so it can’t harm another innocent child.
4. Go over your child’s device from top to bottom and enable all necessary safety settings and website blocks.
Finally, parents can teach their kids a lot by leading by example. If you tell your kids not to share personal pictures or information online, don’t do it yourself. You can also teach them how to use technology in moderation. Set expectations for when your kids should and should not be online, and follow them yourself. Also, spend time outside with your kids instead of sitting inside on the phone. It can be a valuable lesson that while tech is important, it doesn’t need to consume their lives.
So yes, teaching your kids about tech and digital literacy is important. However, caution is a must. Educate your children, keep up with their habits, and create a positive environment, and your kids will form a healthy relationship with tech.