The Irresistible Internet

Being able to connect instantly to the Web is almost a defining fundamental right of this new generation of digital nomads, aka our children.

The boundaries between a wired and a wireless world are fast disappearing with terminology such as broadband, bandwidth, Bluetooth, cellular networks and hotspots becoming the new vernacular.

Instant knowledge & instant access : is it age-appropriate ?

This is the seduction of the Net, the immediacy of the moment delivering everything on tap – data, facts, opinions, news, analysis, rants, happenings, replays, forecasts, entertainment, gossip … like a giant spider, the Net is casting its inescapable web on our young.

And just as it promises, it also threatens. It takes maturity to understand context and relevance, something children learn over time, as they grow.

Children today have an opinion about almost everything – there is very little they haven’t seen or heard or come across, thanks to the Net.

The question is, are they accessing age appropriate information ? The Net speaks the same language to the young, the old, the innocent, the experienced, the cynical, the wise, the radical, the individual, the group … more importantly, it affords all equal opportunities.

As parents, it is our responsibility to guide them safely through its temptations into adulthood.

Beyond the ‘instant’ Internet

We need to understand and educate ourselves first before we can teach our children how to navigate safely. For many of us, computer literacy is possibly limited to emails, Word documents, Excel sheets, Powerpoint presentations, FaceBook and tweets … is this knowledge sufficient ?

Do we know enough to be able to teach our children how to protect their privacy and identity, steer clear of online predators, recognise cyber-bullying or pornography disguised as meta words or resist the lure of online games and online purchases which could lead to indiscriminate spending ? Can they see populist trends, gimmicky advertising  or airbrushed pictures for what they are ? For that matter, can we ? Do they know the perils of plagiarism ? Or buying into virtual realities that parallel our lives so closely that the distinctions become blurred ?

As parents, are we cognizant of these dangers; these enticements that seem authentic and trustworthy ?

Most schools inform and educate parents on how to protect their children, what to be aware of, what to safeguard against.

Tips for the connected parent :

1.    There should be just one admin login for your child’s computer and the password should be yours and known only to you.

2.    The computer (or mobile phone, tablet, or iPad …) should be kept in a public area – a living room or a shared study … never in a child’s bedroom where he or she can access it privately at night or other times when the chances of an adult being around are remote.

3.    Do not permit your child unlimited usage time. The boundaries should be set, and more importantly understood and adhered to.

4.    Talk to your child, tell them about the strangers who lurk in the shadows online, how their ID’s can be hijacked, how personal details thoughtlessly typed in can lead to repercussions far beyond their imagination or comprehension.

Educate yourself, educate your child.

It is never too early or too late and here are some resources that will help you – and your children – get cyber smart and stay cyber safe.