Like it or loathe it, we’re living in a digital age, and many young children and pre-teens have learned to swipe, scroll and select long before they’ve mastered riding a bike
It’s now not unusual to see even very young children playing on their parent’s tablet, or scrolling through a phone – whether it’s their own or a family member’s – and being media savvy when it comes to Instagram or Snapchat. But how can you keep them safe as well as guiding them to more appropriate apps?
Cyberbullying is when a child is bullied through social media, games or mobiles. This is an issue for older children, but by being aware of what your child is doing online from a young age you will better protect your child in the future. Talk together about what you’re happy for them to see and not see and how the importance of not giving out personal details such as their age, address, school or phone number. Look together at sites or apps you are happy for them to be on and agree that they will stick to the ones you’ve discussed. Chat daily about what they’re doing online – you’ll soon notice if they become evasive or withdrawn. If they have their own social media account, set boundaries. For example, you may decide that they can only have an account if you’re their ‘friend’, with the understanding that you won’t post photos of them or publicly embarrass them online.
If you’re worried that your child is spending too much time staring at a tablet or smartphone, you could agree a daily time allowance. Most devices come with parental controls that you can activate. Alternatively, you can download software such as Qustodio (qustodio.com) to restrict usage and block inappropriate content. Some flexibility on time limits might be needed – when your child has homework, for instance. Apps such as Habyts (habyts.com) allow you to offer extra screen time as a reward for chores and good behaviour.
There are some really fun, educational sites and apps:
Scratch (scratch.mit.edu) helps you child learn basic coding. Users can create simple games, animations and stories.
Cbeebies (bbc.co.uk/cbeebies) has a huge number of online games, puzzles and other activities. The Alphablocks School Words Quiz, for example, helps pre-schoolers and reception-aged children learn to recognise simple words.
Comics in the Classroom (comicsintheclassroom.co.uk) are a range of digital comics that teach children about history. They support the Key Stage 3 and are interactive – children have to identify correct answers to unlock more pages.
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