Growing up with technology can be a blessing. Children have access to so many benefits, such as educational materials, long-distance communication with relatives, and quality entertainment. No wonder kids are receiving electronic devices at a younger and younger age.
However, as moms and dads well know, the internet also comes with its fair share of dangers. Scammers and predators, cyberbullying, and pornography are all things parents have every right to worry about when their child gains internet access. How can they tell their child is ready for unsupervised internet access on a personal device of their own?
Every kid is different. Some will mature much more quickly than others. There is no set age limit for internet use that can be accurately applied to every child. Instead, look for some of these more subtle indications that your kiddo may be ready for that level of trust.
1. They Demonstrate Responsibility
First and foremost, your child must be responsible. Do they care for their things, complete their homework on time, and handle routine chores without nagging? If so, you can probably trust them to bring that same sense of responsibility to their online activities.
Should you want more reassurance, there are ways to test the responsibility of your child before entrusting them with unsupervised internet access. Some parents gauge their child’s level of responsibility by getting them a pet. Even something as small as a goldfish can tell you a lot about where they’re at in its young development. Kids who can follow a feeding and cleaning schedule without being reminded rate high on the responsibility scale.
If you can clearly see a sense of responsibility in your child, you’ll feel more at ease granting them online access. Testing their skills with other responsibilities also gives you a feel for their common sense and critical thinking. Both are essential for responsible internet use. You might ramp them up with a limited device, such as a kids phone, to monitor their tech behavior before granting unlimited online access.
2. You Have Security Precautions in Place
Just because you’re deciding your child can have unsupervised internet access doesn’t mean you should abandon all safety precautions. In fact, it’s all the more reason to put some behind-the-scenes barriers in place. These boundaries can keep your child safe even when you’re not actively looking over their shoulder as they scroll on their devices.
For example, safe search settings can be enabled on web browsers to filter out the worst the internet has to offer. Your child can search whatever they want to, but they’ll be protected from seeing content that they’re not ready to consume. They’ll experience internet independence while still being protected by guardrails.
Other security measures can include blocking specific websites and restricting private messaging to only those on a preapproved friends list. Or you might block access at certain times of the day. This way you can ease your child into online life without tossing them recklessly into the internet’s deep end without a life preserver.
3. You Know and Trust Their Friends
Friends are some of the most influential people in your kid’s life. They’ll affect how they think, speak, dress, and act. They also serve as a good barometer for how your child will react to receiving unsupervised internet access for the first time.
Look for an opportunity to meet your child’s friends if you haven’t already. Invite them over for dinner, support them at a sporting event, or talk to their parents at a school function. Are these the sorts of kids who support good decisions or are they likely to drag your child into mischief? Are they kind, or are they the type who might turn into cyberbullies if given the chance?
Even if you have a wonderfully obedient kid, friends can cause them to act against their nature when they’re away from home. If you can trust their friends, you can likely trust your own child to do the right thing when unobserved. If their choice of friends is questionable, you may want to hold off on giving them the keys to the internet kingdom.
4. They’ve Been Coached on Internet Safety
If you really want to make sure your child is ready, put them through your own internet boot camp. Teach them everything there is to know about internet safety and be open to any questions they might have. This will help ensure that you’ve covered even the most sensitive topics properly before letting them loose.
Write down a list of everything you wish to go over with your kid. This can include anything from social media etiquette to recognizing phishing scams. Be sure to spend extra time covering your biggest concerns and how they can be avoided.
Don’t shy away from any questions your kid might ask, especially the difficult ones. If your child asks whether you ever fell for a scam or came across a dodgy site, answer honestly. Your candor will help you and your child forge a bond of trust. As a result, your child will likely be more open with you about any problems they encounter online. Their questions may also help you cover topics you didn’t think about before preparing your talk.
Giving up control to your kids is always a challenge. However, it’s something you have to do eventually to allow them to grow and mature into capable adults. They will inevitably make mistakes online, but there’s no better way to learn than through their own experiences.
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