What To Tell Your Kids About The Internet2
December 18, 2015
Hopefully, after reading WTTYKATI Part 1, I have convinced you that your opinion about the Internet is worth sharing with your kids. Now to the topics I mentioned.
The Internet Is An Incredible Tool
Like any tool, the Internet can make your life easier and more enjoyable, provided it is handled correctly. There is some positive data, about kids and teens actually benefitting in some way, by Internet and computer use.
Internet use by children can build reading, writing and all sorts of other academic skills. It can also enhance researching, self direction, creativity, and allow your child or teen the opportunity to play in a powerful and educational virtual space.
Access to computers in general has been associated with better academic performance, as well as improving visual intelligence, and eye hand coordination. Online games have even demonstrated improvements in teamwork and creativity.
Some parental roles, such as being your child’s encyclopedia, have been handed willingly over to GOOGLE, YouTube, and Wikipedia. With that kind of database at their fingertips, kids don’t need to ask Mom and Dad why the sky is blue anymore. Here is the link in case it ever comes up and you want to show off:
The Internet has many amazing educational sites. Many are of such high calibre that they may cause you to seriously consider Home-Schooling.
Check out the Khan Academy:
More and more of your children and teen’s social lives are being experienced on the Internet. While you and I may have grown up feeling like our high school was the centre of our social world, the Internet generation uses social media to make themselves the centre of their world.
They use Facebook and Twitter pages as hubs where their friends can hang out, similar to the park, or somebody’s basement. It is important that parents understand how necessary it is, for kids and teens to ‘check in’ with their various tweets and updates. This is the new arena, to determine how they compare to others, which then contributes to a sense of accomplishment, belonging, and self esteem.
Denying your child or teen access to the Internet, can feel like they are being exiled from all their friends at once. This can create feelings of anxiety, isolation, and hopelessness, at least temporarily. The challenge is to find the balancing point between letting your teen ‘check in’, as well as making sure they are also checking in with family members, and their other important activities and responsibilities.
Because kids and teens more easily learn ‘the Internet’, as well as how new technology works in general, it is important to encourage these abilities. These skills will be useful for the rest of their lives, as computers and the Internet are here to stay.
While how many LIKES an Instagram photo your child or teen gets may temporarily boost self esteem; acquiring real skills, such as those related to computers or the Internet, are truly things to be proud of. Parents should also encourage their child or teen’s learning offline, at every opportunity.
Things On The Internet Aren’t Automatically True
More and more people are getting their news, entertainment, and social needs met through their favorite bookmarked internet sites. Time alone with the computer often entails bouncing from one favorite site to the next, very similar to the channel surfing we used to engage in with our televisions.
Children, teens, and adults under 25 have lived their whole lives in the presence of the Web. Some studies indicate for younger age groups it may be difficult to separate facts in real life, from opinions on the Internet. This is not something that is specific to the Internet, merely a statement about its power to persuade. Adults have fallen victim to many online scams and various types of fraud. Many people create elaborate Internet aliases for psychological gratification. Some people have become radicalized over the Internet, so powerful are its images and messages, even if they are just on a screen.
It is becoming increasingly more common, for kids to avoid their ‘real life’ at school, because of something that happened in their ‘virtual life’ on Facebook. Cyber-bullying, trolling, and shaming others still occurs regularly on all social media platforms, and these companies are aware of the problem as well, and continue to update policies to protect users.
It is important that parents talk to their kids and teens about the power of the Internet to shape how they feel about themselves. Teens can be particularly sensitive, and may react more strongly to something said on the net, even compared to something said directly to their face.
Ask your child or teen if they are being bullied online. Teach them how to report or block people or comments that they find abusive. Teach them how to be safe in every neighborhood they hang out in.
It is important that parents understand the power of the Internet, and that their kids and teens do too, to the best of their ability. Children and teens often are unable to fully appreciate this perspective, however, which is why it is ALWAYS important that you monitor your child or teen’s Internet use. Try to find opportunities to talk to your kids about the sites they are visiting, and the games they are playing. Dig a little deeper, if they become vague or reluctant to elaborate, or show you a site or game they have been playing.
Their behavior online is not like a secret personal diary, hidden in the back of their dresser drawer. Rather, their emails, snapchats, selfies and updates, have the potential to be shared with more individuals than a daily newspaper. The idea that you are invading THEIR privacy, by making sure they are using the Internet safely, is tough to argue from this perspective.
Again, a balancing point is often necessary, between transparency and privacy, as some independence from parents is healthy. Passwords may need to be shared, at least at the start, as a starting point for building a sense of trust. Parents need to stand at the appropriate virtual distance, with a general idea about what sites or people their kids are interacting with online.
Children need to be taught that websites should not be treated like fast friends.
Teach your kids to remember to treat people and websites with the same caution or trepidation you would use when approaching a stranger. That doesn’t mean you should freeze like a deer in the headlights, every time someone sends your child a friend request, or be mean, or ignore anybody. It just means you should teach your children and teens, to be aware, cautious, and ensure the entity on the other side of the screen EARNS your trust, in some way.
Teach your kids that many people on the Internet are selling things, and show them how to avoid pressing the wrong buttons, so you do not get any surprises from Amazon. Go over what to do if someone tries to ask them questions, or ask them more about themselves than they feel comfortable sharing.
Part 3 will continue, with the following topics:
The Internet Is Filled With Adult Content
The Internet Should Not Replace Other Activities You Enjoy
The Internet Can Rewire Your Brain
And Some Thoughts, Just For Parents To Consider
So tune in next time.
Simon Trepel, MD
Simon Trepel, MD FRCPC, is a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in Winnipeg, Canada. He is an Assistant Professor, at the University Of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Co-founder of the GDAAY Clinic. He is, more importantly, the proud Father of 2 beautiful Daughters. He writes in his spare time about things he knows something about, and occasionally about things he doesn’t; like Yoga, and Italian flavored coffees. He was not referring to coffee that tastes like an Italian person.
Check out his Blog, called Simon Says Psych Stuff, at