5 Tips to Teach Children Technology
“Are you insane?
I’ve hardly had a proper conversation with anyone for two years! Now you want me to talk to my kids through Facebook as well?”
And that’s just the tip of the internet iceberg that’s turned even a kid’s bedroom into a cold and dangerous place. There may not be any bogeymen in their closet, but there are millions of them the moment your child goes online.
Sadly, there’s no avoiding it in the digital age. Perhaps if Berners-Lee, creator of www, the Worldwide Web, knew the devastating effects the online world would have on our entire way of life, not to mention our self belief, he may have pulled the plug before the nightmare even began.
Yes, we can read instantly updated news and watch live streamed sport on our phones. Lovely. But we can also see young lives swallowed whole just as instantly. It happens every day and we’re barely even shocked; that’s how desensitised we’ve become to the abominations the internet presents to us on a plate/iPad/iPhone every single day.
Technology and ecommerce have taught our kids to expect instant gratification. They expect everything yesterday and their appreciation of anything they have lasts about as long. Technology has also exposed our kids to a global and daily threat of sinister behaviour beyond our comprehensions. Yet all of it, every last hacker, bully, body shamer is only one innocent mouse click away.
The internet is brutal and, as parents, we have to be equally brutal to protect our kids from hideous things they’ll either find themselves by accident, or those things will find them. So here are five critical tips to teach your kids about technology, and safe technology.
Tip One: Start with the real world
Tell them the horror stories of waiting for things in the dark ages of our youth.
Tell them about letters to friends, handwritten on what was called a piece of paper with a crude instrument called a pen; letters that took weeks, not milliseconds to reach their destination.
Tell them about record shops and book stores, places you actually left the house and visited to buy music and books. Not only that, you bought entire albums by the same artist and books came with covers and pages.
Tell them about rolls of film and photos that took a week to process. If they’re not screaming from under the bed by now, tell them about TVs without remotes and telephones with cords.
Tell them that while all these things might seem prehistoric, they somehow made life better than it is now. We had to go places to get things. We had to wait for things. We appreciated things.
Tip Two: Tell them about bullying
Yes, bullies used to be those ugly big kids that hung around in playgrounds stealing lunches. Sadly, those were the good old days. Now bullies don’t even have faces, they’re anonymous cowards hiding behind online pseudonyms and attacking anyone silly enough to read their bile.
Chances are your kids will encounter cyber bullies; they’re everywhere, skulking around the shadows of Facebook status updates and trying to extend their putrid vocabulary out to 140 characters on Twitter. They’re body shaming anyone better than them on Instagram and abusing innocents on Snapchat.
Tell your kids to report to you in the first instance of bullying so you can have some fun. If you can take over the chat and ‘out’ the bully, it’ll be one less for all of us to deal with.
Tip Three: Sit with them online
Not in an annoying, prying way; make it feel like a guided tour of fun places they can go that are safe and still fun. The nature of those places will depend on your child’s interests, but the more safe sites they spend time on, the less they’ll be on social networks.
Tip four: Limit their time online
Remember, you’re their parent, so don’t try to be their best buddy by trusting them with unlimited online access; it’s not them you have to trust. Limit their online activity to a maximum of two hours per day. They’ll think you’re the worst parent in the history of the virtual world, but so be it. The internet is no place for young, impressionable minds to linger any longer than they have to.
Tip Five: Be a mobile monster
Limit mobile use. Texts can be just as damaging as comments on social sites. Make rules for home and school mobile use to minimise their time staring at a potentially life-changing screen.
The more ways you can find to keep your kids either off technology or working securely when they’re using it, the safer they’ll be.