The internet is a wonderful thing. You can use for anything from finding answers to everyday questions to using it to find an internship in China. You could also learn a huge plethora of topics from any of the online courses available right at your fingertips. However, the internet also comes with its own share of risks that you have to know how to handle before you can use it.
So, when should someone be introduced to the internet? When should you introduce your kids to the internet?
There’s a lot of ideas on this topic and, in this article, we will take a look at them and try to determine when you should introduce your kids to the internet.
When to Introduce Your Child to the Internet?
The biggest question is, as the theme of this article suggests when you should introduce your child to the internet. After all, when are they ready to be that connected to the world around them and potentially strangers that they’ve never met?
Well, if you want them to really understand what they’re using, you should probably wait until they are at least six years old. This is because before then, children don’t really have the ability to think abstractly, and that’s exactly what the internet is – an abstract concept.
A younger child might be able to click on the app they want or choose a song from YouTube, but they might not understand how things are working or why they are working that way. While you may not need to understand the intricate inner workings of the internet to use it properly, you should probably be able to know the basics to use the internet effectively.
Don’t Introduce Them All at Once
For children, you should also limit their internet use so that they don’t become dependent or even addicted to its use or assets of its use.
Instead, you should limit the use that they get out of the internet. This means limiting the amount that a child uses a computer, online gaming system, streaming service, or even phone. Most often, parents do this by limiting “screen time” generally. This means limiting the amount of time that a child uses anything with a screen from internet devices to watching traditional cable TV.
So, how much screen time is the right amount?
Well, it depends on their age, for one. For a child that is 18 months or less, pretty much no screen time is recommended, and if any is used, like anything a child this young does, it should be heavily supervised.
Above that, if a child is 2 to 5, they shouldn’t have more than an hour of screen time a day. Once again, though, you should supervise what they watch. Generally, you are introducing your child to the internet gradually, and you shouldn’t just give them a tablet and let them run wild. You need to supervise them and make sure they are learning in content and age-appropriate for them. This can be difficult, though, as the internet doesn’t exactly use an age-restricted age system as things like movies and video games have.
For young children especially, you should be careful about what they watch, though. There is plenty of content out there that isn’t meant for kids. Despite a lack of a rating system, though, there are certain measures you can take to ensure your child is watching age-appropriate material.
For instance, there is the use of features such as Netflix Kids or YouTube Kids. There is also the option of turning parent controls and safe search on most websites you and your kids are using. These types of features are great for keeping children on the safer side of the internet as they surf the web. There is, however, no replacement for general parental supervision over the content your child is consuming.
Even being as careful as possible, your child might come across something they know is inappropriate. You should teach them to exit the website they are on or to shut the computer down and to tell an adult what happened. Make sure not to blame them too much – they can’t be held responsible every time they stumble across something that someone else posted online.
Teach Them Safe Internet Practice
You should also hold off until your child can understand the practices that are best for keeping them safe on the internet. This also means that you have to be sure to teach your children about the basics of how to keep themselves safe on the internet.
An example would be to teach them not to talk to strangers on the internet. When you teach them this, relate it to the fact that they wouldn’t talk to a stranger in their everyday life, so they should follow that same rule online. If they do end up talking to someone online, make sure they understand not to give away personal information such as their full name or address to keep themselves safe.
You should also teach them not to click suspicious links and ads. This is both for their safety and the safety of your internet-capable device. For instance, they shouldn’t click on banner ads or links on the sides of web pages. This way, they won’t end up redirected to a site that is inappropriate or tries to harvest personal information and your laptop, tablet, phone, or another device won’t end up with a virus.