Parents all over the world struggle with the unknown world of our kids going online.  The world is shrinking around us; information is easier to access, devices are far more portable and people are becoming more connected. For parents, this means that they have to face the dilemma of providing online access to your children at a far earlier age. However, how do you know if your child is ready and what can be done to protect them when online? 

Little Steps Asia chats with Jay Thompson, the Head of Education Technology (K-12) at GEMS World Academy (Singapore) about the key questions to ask yourself and ways to support your child online.

1.  Why do I think my child needs an email address / social media account?

Firstly take some time to think about this question and write down some ideas. Is this pressure from your child because “all my friends already have one” or are there key educational and developmental benefits of going online now.

2. Is my child socially and emotionally ready?

If you feel that they are emotionally capable of understanding both the benefits and risks of being online, then maybe the timing is right. If you feel your child is not ready then don’t feel pressured to get them online. Rushing into online access without proper consideration could put your child at risk. 

3.  I think my child is ready - what steps should I take now?

Begin by starting a conversation and creating two-way communication, you are more likely to empower your child to make the right decisions and seek support when needed.

4.  Set clear expectations and guidelines

At the start of your journey, it is important to sit down with your child and discuss what the benefits and risks of going online could be. Work together to create a list of mutual expectations and guidelines. The key is to discuss and be willing to negotiate.

5.  No Secret Squirrel

While we all like to have a certain level of privacy, it is important to let your child know that Internet access is a public, family affair. It should also be made clear that no family device is the property of one person, however, they are shared family items that should be open and usable by all. As parents, we should make an effort to ask them about what they are doing and take an interest in their work and achievements online. 

6.  Are certain social apps & websites safer for my child to use?

There are not necessarily good and bad social apps & websites, however, the way in which they are used is what is important. As a parent we should evaluate the benefits and risks of each application and website, using our own judgment to determine child-friendliness. 

7.  Final advice for setting up an account for your child on social media:

*  Shared Password

*  Turn On Privacy Filters

*  Add Your Child As A Friend on social media

*  Have Some Down Time

*  Remember technology can be a powerful tool but requires careful planning and open dialogue for all parties.