I remember when my son reached an age where I had to begin thinking about having those awkward father-son conversations. Older parents will recognize some of them, but parents with young kids will also know that some awkward topics are still just emerging. One of these is Internet safety and how we can keep children safe as they explore the web.
As I mused over how to raise the issue of Internet safety with my son, I discovered that many other parents were hoping that the school system would handle this for them, just like they did with sexual-education. After all it’s a team effort, right?
Well, AVG has just completed a survey of around 1,800 teachers in nine countries asking them Internet safety and the vast majority (82%) of them said that they thought parents were too reliant on teachers to teach children about Internet safety.
Teachers thought that this is because parents didn’t know enough about the topic themselves (38%), an opinion that was mirrored in the previous round of Digital Diaries research where half of parents told us that they expect their child to be more tech savvy than them by the age of 12.
In my eyes, this is the heart of the matter. Parents are confident that when it comes to sex or drugs (topics of other awkward situations), they have greater experience but in matters of technology they aren’t always so confident. The same goes for teachers, only 28% of them claim to have had any formal training on Internet safety. Is it responsible of us as parents to leave this to the education system? I doubt it, I think parents need to grab the bull by the horns and make sure they are there, guiding their children through the web.
Parents should be reassured though that there are a lot of free tools available to help them do this and it’s not all about blocking off the Internet and restricting what they can do. So much of the Internet’s value as an educational tool and entertainment platform is down to the sheer diversity of content it holds. Simply blocking sites is a quick fix, it won’t remove their curiosity they will find out how to get online elsewhere.
I honestly believe the best way for parents to help guide their children online (and take some of the pressure off our teachers!) is to take the initiative from an early age. Talk to them, use educational interactive story books like AVG’s Magda and Mo to help your child understand the risks and rewards of going online, even if they are still too young to do so.
After that, it’s a question of taking an interest, not just in technology but in what your child does online. What is that new game they are playing? Where are they sharing that photo? Staying on top of your child’s activity will not only help keep them safe, but importantly it will give you the confidence to talk to them about any issues you may have.
July 4, 2014