The internet is an incredible tool. It offers endless opportunities for learning, communication, and entertainment. But it also has its pitfalls. Navigating the conversation about the digital world with your child can be daunting. This guide simplifies the process, helping your child start their online journey with knowledge and caution.
Before diving into the conversation, get familiar with the platforms and websites that captivate kids today. From gaming sites to educational platforms, understanding where they're headed will help you guide the dialogue.
These BrightCanary guides for parents will get you started:
Introducing the digital world to your child proactively can set the foundation for responsible usage. Preparation beats reparation.
To help your child navigate digital spaces, talk to them about the following terms they’ll encounter online:
You can break these categories into more detail. For example, take your child on a Google search adventure and show them how to find answers to their questions. If appropriate, do the same on YouTube and look up kid-friendly videos related to their interests.
If your child doesn’t already have a Google account, now is a great time to set one up. When you add their account information to BrightCanary, you’ll be able to view what they search and watch online. Plus, BrightCanary alerts you when your child encounters something inappropriate.
Encourage your child to question the reliability of online information with critical thinking and skepticism. Explain that just because something is on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s true.
You might start the conversation with a practical question: “Do you believe everything you’re told?”
Of course, the answer will be “no.” You can say, “The same is true of the internet. Always ask, ‘How do I know this is true?’ or ‘How can I investigate whether this is true or not?’”
Draw parallels between the digital realm and real-world scenarios. For example, equate sharing personal information online with giving a stranger personal details in a public park. Compare sharing a password with giving a stranger a key to your house.
Nothing beats hands-on experience. Spend some time browsing the internet together, discussing what you encounter and how to deal with difficult situations.
Talk to your child about what content is suitable for their age and why. For example, it’s safe for them to watch kid-friendly, parent-approved YouTube videos. It’s not appropriate for them to talk to strangers online. Ask them what they think is safe and appropriate, and what is not. Get them thinking.
Internet risks can be divided into four categories:
Talk to your child about these risks. Remind them that if they have questions or feel uncomfortable about something they see online, they should talk to a parent immediately.
One of the best ways to help your child use the internet safely is to create a digital agreement. Also known as a digital device contract, this agreement outlines acceptable online behavior, the consequences of straying from it, and clear guidelines around device use. The agreement can be printed and posted somewhere around the house as a reminder.
What should a parental-child digital agreement include? BrightCanary’s free, downloadable template includes the following:
The agreement should be signed by the parent and child to indicate they accept it and are obligated to follow it.
Introducing your child to the internet can feel overwhelming. But with the right preparation, you’ll set your child (and yourself) up for success. Start with the basics, like what the internet is and how to use popular platforms. Then, talk about safety and responsibility. A digital device contract can help lay out important rules and guidelines.
Doug Noll, JD, MA, is a professional peacemaker, writer, and mediator. Doug has studied human conflict for over 45 years and worked as a lawyer for over two decades. Learn more about Doug’s work at dougnoll.com.