Parenting Digital Natives In Today’s ‘Always On’ Era

Oluwatoni Falade, Cybersecurity Awareness Trainer

By Oluwatoni Falade

Adequate parenting in this age of technology is a big question in the minds of a
lot of parents and guardians. As a parent, I am beginning to understand how
daunting it can be to keep up with the digital lifestyle of our children. From age
1, they want to touch, press and click, maybe because the device looks like a toy.
From my observation, I realized that a child could easily find their way around
any device with minimal to no help and often prefer to watch cartoons on
mobile rather than on TV. These abilities and curiosity increase as they grow
older, which is why it is so difficult to keep up.

The internet has lots of opportunities, and it is the responsibility of
parents/guardians to ensure their ‘child’s safety online while harnessing the
benefits. Children of different ages have varied internet needs and ‘their
associated risks. For children of preschool age (3 -5 years), some risks identified
are: spending too much time on the internet and exposure to inappropriate
content. To handle these risks, set usage time limits to a specific number of
hours per day, depending on a school season or a holiday. Also, ensure access
to only child-specific sites or applications, monitor their use and create
awareness about online safety the same way you speak to them about talking
to strangers or crossing the road.

Similarly, young children between the ages of 6 and 10 tend to have a bit of
autonomy while using the internet. This increases their exposure to internet
risks identified above, and others, such as cyberbullying, meeting strangers,
inappropriate content and illegal conduct. To mitigate these risks, restrictions
such as password protection on applications are necessary to prevent them
from content that is not age-friendly. Also, avoid them owning personal devices;
if they must, they should be shared and used only within communal areas where
their usage can be supervised.

For pre-teens (11-13years), because they are already in secondary school and
starting to feel like adults, breaking rules and distancing themselves from their
parents, can result in their parents feeling less in control. The associated risks
are enormous, ranging from engaging in risky behaviours such as contacting strangers and even arranging physical meetings, sharing personal information,
cyberbullying, and cyber grooming, to the impact of social media on a child’s
mental well-being. To deal with these risks, continuous discussion, awareness
and capacity development on internet safety are required without judging and
frightening the child. Similarly, supervising teenagers( 14 -17), online
interactions can be complicated because at this age they will typically have
access to multiple devices within and outside their homes. Also, they own
various social media accounts where they can use their real name or screen
name.

In conclusion, keeping abreast with all the emerging technologies alongside
other responsibilities can be challenging. However, as the saying ‘little drops of
water makes an ‘ocean’. It begins with developing interest, investing time to
acquire knowledge, and a commitment to continuous learning, unlearning and
relearning. In addition, learning with the children can foster better relationships;
where your child knows more, encourage him or her to teach you. Internet safety is everyone’s responsibility, so let’s win together.

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