The Internet has been around as far as our children can tell. Today, as many as half of all kids up to age 7 use Internet-connected devices, 7.5 million kids under 13 use Facebook, which I find that to be irresponsible from parents, and 35% of apps on parents’ phones are downloaded by their children.
As early as kindergarten or first grade, they are being introduced to their teacher’s website using the PC, Mac, or laptop in the school library.
This is not bad news at all. Being adept at using the Internet is in an important skill that we all have to master to be successful, productive members of society. Kids and Technology is something we should embrace. We should be teaching our kids how to do it right.
As a parent and youth online safety advocate, I do believe, however, that we cannot lose sight of the larger implications of allowing our kids access to the Internet as young as 5 and 6 years old. We must also think beyond the educational benefits of doing so. Like going out into the real world, we guide our kids about issues of safety, manners, and overall conduct. We should do the same before they get online, never mind the time spent on Internet connected devices, and perhaps even before they get into a classroom.
Here are some hidden Dangers of kids and technology:
- Obesity Your kid sits all day playing with tech, they move less, they get fat; end of story. Nobody wants their child to be unhealthy or overweight so limit the online time.
- Accidentally seeing something inappropriate Pop ups. Even if you childproof that sucker, your kid still could accidentally see something that you are not ready to explain like two men kissing or a woman giving birth. Nothing wrong with either but unless you are comfortable having that conversation with your 3-year-old, don’t do it.
- More awkward social skills The more our children immerse themselves in the cyber world, the less their social skills are developing. They need to interact in real time, face to face, not just via face time. Unless you want the norm for all people to meet others to be via sites like Match.com, teach your kids how to live in the real world.
- Surprise bills from iTunes This is a lesson I learned very recently and the hard way. My daughters had finished their homework and did their chores, they asked me if I could buy them a dress up game they had been wanting on the iPad called Sporty Girl Dress up. It was only $1.99 so I bought it. Unfortunately, every time they clicked on an outfit to dress up in, it charged me $1.99. It didn’t ask to confirm the purchase, it only asked, “ Do you want this?” and the girls obviously wanted it. Long story short, I got a surprise bill for $80. I’m sure this is not the only unethical game around so beware.
- Interacting with unsavory characters You hear about kids talking to pedophiles online all the time and not knowing it. How could they? How can any of us know who is real and what is bullshit when we are talking via social media?
- Sending inappropriate photos Cell phone cameras are not the friend of tweens and teens. They are too naive to understand what can happen to nude photos and sexts sent and intended for one person. They don’t realize that once they go out they are no longer private or personal.
- Giving out private information to potential criminals I had a cousin who tweeted every move she made, including where she was going, when she was going what she was wearing and once she even status updated her Facebook with her address saying she was bored and if anyone wanted to come over they should.
- Addiction Kids can get addicted to technology. It’s a crutch. They get used to having those online connections and they don’t want to give them up. Don’t fool yourself, it’s like cyber crack.