|Courtesy of Jake Landis/PBS|
Is your child on Facebook?
Chances are he’s not, but as our world becomes increasingly more digital, kids are experiencing the Internet at a very young age.
And though it can be great as a quick distraction and even a learning tool, let’s face it — there’s some scary stuff out there.
Luckily, there are easy ways to make your child’s web-surfing experience safe and educational.
“We feel like the most important thing is parent-child interaction,” says Sara DeWitt, vice president of Interactive at PBS Kids. “It should definitely be parent-driven in the beginning.”
DeWitt recommends that parents look for solid websites (like pbskids.org/go) that are a combination of educational and entertaining. “One of the best ways to do that is to look for reliable sources — parents should check sites, networks and brands they’re familiar with, and see what they offer to kids.”
As for what age to introduce your child to the Internet, DeWitt says it depends on his or her development. “How good are their motor skills? Can they engage with technology? Those are some questions you need to ask,” she explains.
And make sure your child isn’t on media overload, either. “Think about the screentime that’s already in your child’s life,” she cautions. “Be sure there’s a balance between the time they’re watching television versus using a computer screen, and activities that are off-screen. After they play online, see if you can move them to an offline game.”
DeWitt says that this generation of parents has a leg up: Since they grew up with the web, they’re as tech-literate as their kids. “For a long time, we had the ‘digital native’ idea with young children,” she shares. “But today’s parents are confident with the Internet, and comfortable with the idea of using it.”
|Courtesy of PBS Kids|
Still, there are precautions to take: DeWitt reminds parents that people under the age of 13 aren’t supposed to be using Facebook, and adults need to remember that using search engines can sometimes lead to trouble, too. “Kids themselves are very unlikely to use search engines,” she says. “But we recommend parents choose a site that’s safe for kids, then let them naturally navigate through it.”
To teach families more about Internet navigation, PBS recently launched the Digital Citizenship Initiative, based around a game for parents and kids ages 6-9 that teaches privacy and online safety. Check it out at pbskids.org/webonauts.
— Kate Hogan