Preschoolers are learning how to log online. With iPads and tablets readily accessible, they learn at an early age how to navigate the system. Once they start school, computers can be quickly introduced as an enrichment activity. Sooner or later, they will start asking to go online and search websites.
When students want new responsibilities – like playing outside alone or driving, families and teachers spend time teaching safety rules and regulations.
So why aren’t we doing the same when they learn how to go online?
Letting your child go online alone is the same as letting them go outside alone. People all over the world use the internet. While there is so amazing information out there, not all of it is safe.
You would not let your five-year-old sail overseas alone. Why would you let them go online alone?
Some people believe that elementary age children are too young to learn about internet safety. But this is the same age where kids learn about being safe from strangers. They learn what to do when they are approached by a stranger and what to say when they are home alone.
On the contrary, this is the perfect time to start teaching them how to be safe online!
We’re not saying you need to have in-depth discussions about cyber bullying, online predators, or adult websites. At least, not at this age.
But there are several ways to stay safe online that young children can understand. This blog post is dedicated to internet safety rules for children in preschool through grade 3.
To begin, sit down with your child and discuss the computer and the internet. What are they? What do they do? What can they find online? See where their interests lie and how much they already know. (You may be surprised!)
As a family, establish some ground rules when it comes to the computer. Here are a few basic rules for elementary-aged children:
ALWAYS GO ONLINE WITH AN ADULT. Remember what we said earlier about letting your five-year-old go overseas alone? Make sure a responsible person is sitting with your child while they browse online. (A trusting older sibling could work, too.)
You may think it is an invasion of privacy to monitor your child’s behavior this closely. Or a waste of time. But consider this example from KidsHealth.org:
“For example, an 8-year-old might do an online search for “Lego.” But with just one missed keystroke, the word “Legs” is entered instead, and the child may be directed to a slew of websites with a focus on legs — some of which may contain pornographic material.”
Err on the side of caution and sit with your child while they explore the net.
DO NOT GIVE OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION. Discuss with your child the difference between public and private information. Make sure they understand that they should never give out private information online – like their name, address, where they live, or what school they go to. Once they share it online, everyone in the world can see it – including bad people. It’s about keeping their whole family safe.
ONLY TALK WITH PEOPLE YOU KNOW. Just because someone says, “I’m a seven-year-old girl,” does not mean they are one. (It could be a man in his thirties.) With children this small, it is crucial that they only talk with people they know. The internet can be a wonderful place to find friends with common interests, but that should be saved for when they are older.
LIMIT YOUR TIME ONLINE. At this age, children should not spend more than 30 minutes on the computer in a single sitting. (And that’s probably too much for some.) For children this young, going on the computer is more of a privilege than for homework. Remind them that homework comes first and then they can play online.
Be on the lookout for more NCES posts on internet safety – including recommendations for your tweens and teens.