Consumer

What is the right age to learn about online safety?

July 3, 2015

Speaking at the Child Internet Safety Summit 2015 in London, Tony Anscombe argues that online safety needs to be taught first hand, just like crossing the road.

When our kids are just about knee high to a grasshopper we start the process of teaching them things to keep them safe, whether it’s that the cooker is hot or that crossing the road could be dangerous.

The process of crossing the road starts at a young age, we hold their hands and stand near the edge of the sidewalk and talk to them about looking both ways and listening, then under our guidance we walk them across the road. As time progresses we ask them to do the looking and listening, we do it too and then we cross the road on their instruction but with us close by having checked that its safe to do so.

The final stage of this is their first outing to the shop, whether for candy or a newspaper we send them off on the big adventure of being grown up enough to step out on their own.

I often get asked at what age should we be talking to our kids about internet safety, my answer is simple, as soon as you let them start using it. Their experience online should be similar to the way we teach them to cross the road, first we do things with them and then with time and experience they step out to do things on their own.

Our recent survey of 2200 parents in the UK shows that 40% of parents with children aged 4-6 have not yet educated their children on the possible dangers and a quarter of them have no plans to give any guidance to their kids. I am certain that if I asked the same question about crossing the road the percentage would be much lower.

More than 40% believed that their kids are sensible enough not to need it, does this mean that parents don’t know the challenges themselves or that they just feel uncomfortable in having what can be an awkward conversation.

The Internet offers our kids a learning and communication experience that we only thought possible in science fiction movies when we were kids, flat screens, voice activation, video on demand and an endless supply of data and information to keep our lives enriched with content.

With the world very much at their finger tips our kids need our wisdom, maturity and knowledge to guide them in accessing the wealth of information and entertainment available to them. As with anything in life there are risks, but they become very minimized if we are equipped to deal with them.

Tony Anscombe
July 3, 2015


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