Why It Matters

Educate kids on Internet use

It is already a common sight here.

A family dines out at a restaurant with a young child. To keep the child entertained, the parents pass him a smart device, such as an iPad or iPhone.

With the child focused on dabbling with the gadget or watching a YouTube video, the parents are able to have their meal in peace.

For many mums and dads, smart devices double as effective babysitters these days. This means that more and more children will be exposed to smart gadgets and going online at a younger age.

By the time they enter primary school, children are likely to be adept at using the Internet and the many social media platforms it offers.

A recent study by the Media Development Authority confirms this. In its survey, it spoke to 1,200 children aged 14 and younger and found that about 13 per cent of them started accessing social media platforms when they were six or younger.

Most of the respondents - about 60 per cent - said they started using social media platforms between the ages of seven and 10.

This makes it imperative for parents to track what their children are doing online, and one good way could be for parents to be directly involved. It requires conscious and proactive efforts - simply being near the child when he is going about his online activities is not enough.

Besides, with gadgets getting more portable, children could be accessing unsavoury content right next to their unsuspecting parents.

Parents can play an active role by navigating social media platforms or playing online games with their children.

These are opportunities for them to talk to their children, understand their online habits and impart important values that will guide their children in making responsible and safe decisions.

There is no denying how much smart technology has crept into our everyday lives and there is no turning back on technological advancement.

This makes it critical for parents to educate their children on responsible Internet use, instead of merely using smart devices as quick-fix babysitters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2015, with the headline 'Educate kids on Internet use'. Print Edition | Subscribe