As a parent of a child currently in primary school, it is likely that your child is more of a digital native than you are! As parents ourselves at Zeeko we are well aware of the concerns that many parents have about their child’s experience of the internet.
The first thing to remember is that there are two people learning through this, you and your child. As a parent you are responsible for what is known as your child’s digital footprint or shadow. The fact that social media is now everywhere and always available means that kids have a social media presence at a younger and younger age, they are also going mobile, in other words they don’t even need a phone to communicate with friends they can use a large range of devices. Also the fact that WIFI is so widely available means that kids can access the online world very simply.
The research we carried out at Zeeko across primary schools in Dublin, indicates that the most effective way to manage your child’s online communication is through active mediation- educating your children through open communication. So what does this mean? Essentially it means, giving your child the tools and education that they need to protect themselves against threats on the internet. Allow them to reap the benefits of the internet for education, entertainment and safe communication. Empower them to be a responsible Internet user, to be comfortable talking about their online endeavours and perhaps most importantly, to speak up if they are confronted with any issues or challenges without fear of punishment.
A mantra we use regularly at Zeeko is to treat the internet like it is a noticeboard. It is not usually possible to have posts to social media sites removed or deleted, so a good question to ask yourself and to encourage your kids to ask before they post something online is: Would I be happy to wear this on a t-shirt.
When we visit schools to children about staying safe online often use an exercise called the t-shirt rule. We ask the children to think of posting online as if they were going to have to wear what they post on the front of a t –shirt. This certainly makes them think about the fact that what we post online is there forever! We also encourage the children to think about their future, what they might like to work as for example, and then explain to them that a future employer may well look at their digital footprint before they give them a job. This also has a big impact on how the children view what they post online. These tips are ones that you can use at home to encourage your child to be mindful of how they communicate digitally.
It is very important that you have regular conversations with your child about how they are communicating online. Having open conversations will lead to your child feeling comfortable about telling you what they are doing while they are online. You will also be able to use these conversations to steer your child towards responsible internet usage, without being forceful.
Our experience at Zeeko of working with children and parents has helped us to develop the following tips for Active Mediation:
Familiarise yourself with the apps and or social media sites that your child regularly uses.
A tell, no blame policy where your child’s digital communication is concerned is a good idea. If your child is frightened of being punished, they are far less likely to tell you about what they are experiencing when they are online.
If your child comes to you with an online problem, take the issue offline immediately. Talking with your child, calmly about the problem will help you both to understand how best to deal with it.
You can find out more about Zeeko parent seminars on our website. On January 4th 2016 we will be launching the Zeeko Internet Safety Guide for Parents, which will include more detailed information on how to digitally parent your child.