We live in an era of fast information and sadly, with that speed and efficiency comes more ways that information can be altered of changed. Internet advertising, pop ups and sidebar activities, fake news – there is plenty that we need to watch for in this space. With more and more information coming to children via the internet, including homework that requires researching topics online, how can we help kids detect what might be genuine information and facts from advertisers, opinion pieces and “fake” news?
I.T. savvy adults can of course install and use up to date security software, but I also think it’s a great idea to skill kids up with a radar so that they can detect what might be dodgy online. It can all get a bit muddy in the internet puddle. How can we help kids to avoid the murky bits?
For preschoolers and early school years
Young children are not really reading news but their screen time can still be interrupted by various dodgy online interference’s. Games and the videos they watch often come with much activity in the sidebars that can entice young minds and are just a click away.
With little ones, I find it useful to “externalise” these online issues. To “externalise means that we make the problem the problem and not have children internalise or blame themselves or others for online issues that are sometimes beyond their control. I like to externalise dodgy internet scams or intrusions as “the tricky internet monster”.
The tricky internet monster is really tricky and very naughty. The monster lives online so you don’t have to worry about him when you are going about your day to day stuff, but you do need to keep an eye out for the monster when you are on an internet device. Every now and then the internet monster might pop up so you need to keep an eye out for it. The monster can tell you fibs, it can show you stuff that is upsetting, can make you want to buy things and it can damage your (or Mum’s or Dad’s) device.
There are three ways that kids can catch an internet monster:
When young children notice something that could be the work of the internet monster, we need to be very attentive when they show us.
For older children
I love the idea of sitting down with older children and dissecting a piece of “fake news” or a dodgy internet post together. When you are examining something together, you can encourage them to Look, Ask and Think.
Just as we do in everyday “real” life, we want children to be able to spend time on the internet without being gullible or vulnerable to dodgy elements…and just like in everyday life, we have to find that balance between too much and too little supervision. As always, this balance will depend on your values as parents or educators as well as the many individual factors that vary from child to child and from situation to situation. There is a balance between light-hearted and full-on-scary that we need to find and if we nail it, we can actually get the Internet Monster to work on our side. Generally speaking, if we encourage children to be curious in the spaces they play and learn – to look, ask and think, we can help them to be savvy and safe.
While Shona is regularly engaged to deliver assessments, reports and treatment for troubled children and young people, she is also available for consulting, speaking and workshops. Call Shona Innes Psychology on 0400 150 106 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via this website.