Today, kids grow up naturally with the internet and smart devices. But they need support on their way through the virtual worlds.
Children experience computers from an early age
Smart devices are now standard media equipment in almost all households with kids and are now ubiquitous in our everyday lives. We fill our profiles with data, shop online, and arrange to meet on social media or watch videos. We listen to music, design photo albums, learn and work with computers and co. So it is not surprising that the computer has become an increasingly common medium in everyday life for children and young people.
Operating a computer, laptop, or tablet PC has become “child’s play”, and children, in particular, learn by watching and trying things out. Knowing that kids know their way around the digital world quickly and naturally and that they sometimes know their way around better than we parents do, often leads to the assumption that they can deal with it competently.
It is therefore essential that you, as parents, provide your young ones with “expert” guidance in dealing with the Internet.
First contact with a smart device
Because younger kids have a strong family orientation, they develop a natural curiosity about phones and such, when they are used within the family. You want to imitate “the big ones”, want to press buttons, look at the colorful pictures on the monitor, insert a USB stick and slide the mouse over the table.
Some toddlers are thrilled when they can hack around on a discarded keyboard and pretend “as if” as much as they can. Others are happy when they can look at a few colorful pictures on their mother or father’s lap or maybe even press a few keys on the “real” computer. And pre-school children are already beginning to understand the virtual play and learning worlds that have been specially created for them.
Parents should not artificially keep their children away from the computer if they are interested, but neither should they lead them there if they are not (yet) interested. Sooner or later this interest comes naturally.
Children are usually even younger when they come into contact with smartphones and tablets. As mobile and handy “mini-computers” they are omnipresent in parents’ everyday life and are easy to use even by small children.
Scope – with and without media
Children are interested in learning new things and acquiring knowledge about the world. This happens first and foremost when playing in the “classic” sense, but also when dealing with the media. The “right mix” is important: some children have access to the computer at an early age, are very interested in it, and spend a lot of time with it.
Even small children quickly become enthusiastic about digital games, for example on smartphones, tablets, or computers. Yet parents should know that direct experience is with all senses, movement, and contact with others is crucial for healthy development, especially in the first few years of life. Those who only deal with the media lack these experiences and opportunities. But parents and children are different: some children may need more alternative play options in order to develop joy and fun again. They need exciting spaces where they can move around and romp around. Others may be too protected by their parents and cut off from the virtual worlds. This may prevent valuable learning experiences. In a world in which computers and the Internet are part of everyday life, you should support your child, according to their age, in understanding media offers better and better.
Internet – very interesting for children
Everything that exists in the real world can be found on the World Wide Web: good, useful, intelligent, but also banal, bad, and “junk”. For children, the Internet can be primarily entertaining and informative, but it can also be interactive and communicative.
Children and young people use the Internet – like television and other media – very differently depending on their age, level of development, and interests. They learn, lookup, read, communicate (chat, make phone calls, post), play, be entertained and entertained. How they use the Internet also depends on how their families deal with (new) media and what experiences the children gain in the family.
Mobile media – always online
Media devices are getting smaller and smaller and therefore also mobile. While Internet use was previously tied to the “home computer” that was permanently located in the apartment, the Internet is now available almost everywhere and all the time with laptops, tablets, and smartphones: at home on the couch, while eating, in the waiting room Doctor, at the bus stop, on the way to daycare and in front of or at school. This can be practical, but it can also quickly become so natural that it suppresses other activities.
Protection for your child
The virtual worlds of the Internet are limitless; the offers are vast and almost all accessible to children. Children and young people see the Internet primarily as an opportunity and not a problem. Often they cannot realistically assess the dangers they expose themselves to during use. Staying on the Internet is particularly critical when it comes to data security, hidden advertising, or cost traps. If you do not take appropriate precautions, children can suddenly come across pornographic or violent sites with just a few clicks. It is therefore important that you protect your child from offers that are not suitable for children or their age.
Almost all toddlers and preschoolers use the internet at home, if at all. This gives you, as a mother or father, the opportunity to consistently accompany your children and ensure age-appropriate use.
Rip off on the net
Children usually believe that most services are offered free of charge on the Internet, especially when the whole thing is attractively packaged, for example in the form of competitions. However, behind supposedly free offers are often experienced “rip-offs” who are constantly finding new ways to pull money out of their pockets for inexperienced Internet users. Talk to your child about “rip-offs” on the Internet and contact the consumer advice centers – there you will find information on how to protect yourself effectively and how to deal with it if you are already “trapped”.
Especially video games today are littered with microtransactions. So make sure your children do not have access to your credit cards or banking info. If that happens you might end up trading your hard-earned money for some virtual currency like fantasy gold or nhl coins.
Chats and instant messenger systems
Children are also starting to be interested in chats on the Internet earlier and earlier – sometimes even at an early age. In so-called “chat rooms” on the Internet, they exchange experiences, opinions, and ideas with others. Internet services are used for this, which enable communication with others in real-time (messenger programs). In principle, children should only take part in chats that have been specially offered and tested for children. But even then it is important that you discuss the possible dangers of chats with your child and establish a few basic rules:
And here, too, the following applies: Keep talking to your child about what they are experiencing while chatting online – that is the most important protection.
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