This article was written by Andy Wood, Online Safety Consultant for SWGfL.

We have all seen the figures that show children have access to tablet devices from very early ages, such as the potty that comes with the tablet holder attached. This may seem extreme to some, but many parents argue that they only let these youngest of children use educational or learning apps. I for one think this is fantastic! We should celebrate safe, responsible and appropriate use of technology.

In my experience, the earlier you are able to enforce sensible rules around access to technology the better – do not try and tell parents they are abdicating their responsibilities by plonking technology in front of their child. Many of these parents are of an age where their whole life has been in the age of the digital revolution. They seem unable to disconnect their own experience from that of their child and my concern is that they are also then unable to demonstrate to their children appropriate use of technology.

I have two teenagers, 18 and 16. I have tried (unsuccessfully) to enforce what I think are sensible arrangements for access. I have simply turned the router off at 11pm – two minutes later, footsteps on the stairs come down and it is back on. I go up and turn it off again. Again come the footsteps on the stairs and it is turned back on. Cue heated words about school nights and getting up in the morning, and the effect of white light on the brain before sleep – followed by 20 minutes of a disintegration into a shouting match where no one is now even remotely tired – and the router is back on. I would have more success removing oxygen from our house than turning off the wifi.

I have even changed broadband provider, so I could better monitor what is going on. I asked my 18 year old what time would be appropriate for me to set on the router which would then block access to the wifi. I started at 11:30 pm and was laughed out of the room.

I do have a look and will make a point of asking the following morning what was so important that it rated higher than a good night’s sleep? If I could have used monitoring software 8 years ago and it had been part of our home environment then I would feel more comfortable than I do now. However, I have to trust that my kids are good kids, that they have good friends and that they have sufficient morals to make good judgements in their online life. One thing that’s certain is their view that they should have access to their online social life any time and anywhere.

The main lesson I take from this is that I came at this too late and that you have to judge your battles carefully. This is called parenting I believe and applies across a range of situations! We have regular conversations around online safety – once or twice a month at least. We talk about safe online behaviour – sexting, viewing inappropriate content, critical thinking etc. so that if they are going to be online in their bedrooms at night, I at least know that they are informed enough to give me hope that they are being careful and thoughtful in their use of their technology. 

This article was originally published by SWGfL.

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