It can be scary to be a parent in this digital world that seems unfamiliar to those of us who grew up with the advent of the internet. It’s like the distant uncle you’d only see at Christmas as you grew up – you recognize him immediately, though he’s at once untouchable and so recognisable at once. You know nothing about him, but he’s family so though he’s practically a stranger you don’t feel awkward when he’s around.
It’s, to be honest, scary that our kids know more about the online world than we do; they’re more confident and familiar than we ever will be. In fact, it’s such a frightening thought that it’s easy to blame them on everything we fear might happen to them online. So, instead of going off on the dangers our children face on the internet, I’d rather go on and tell you about the benefits of kids being online.
Make friends and strengthen relationships. Social media such as Facebook and Instagram lets kids maintain and create friendships more easily than ever before. Distance isn’t an issue anymore with the World Wide Web, and messaging alleviates the awkwardness that some may feel when talking to people in real life.
Learn new skills. Everything is available online! Kids can learn how to code, how to create music, how to paint, write, draw. The possibilities are endless and are only a click away.
Give them a voice. Children can get involved in the world now, and can have their opinions heard either anonymously or not. Politics, animal welfare, the environment – kids have much a stake in it as we adults do, and now they have a platform for their voices.
Provide a support network. More resources are available online for kids who feel ostracized from society. Suicidal kids, cultural kids, kids with illness all are able to find people who can support them easier online than where they live in real life.
Nurture their creativity. Art and writing can be posted to a wide audience for feedback more easily than ever before. They can improve and get criticism that they’d not get otherwise. We have a generation of modern Renaissance and Romantics that we can thank the internet for.
However, still teach your children how to be safe online. Have an open and honest dialogue about the potential dangers they face by using the internet and the steps they should – will – take to ensure their own online safety. Be aware of the adverse effect technology can have on your children too: too much screen time can lead to a lack of sleep, anxiety and depression. Be aware of the cons of being online so you can deal with them if they come up but do not let them outshine the benefits of your child using the internet.
Be supportive of what your children do, respect their boundaries, and talk to them about your fears so they can understand whatever steps you take to help them be safe.