What Are Your Kids Doing Online?

by | Parent Resources

Today many parents are the first generation of Internet parents, and a large number find that they are at the bottom of the learning curve when it comes to the Internet and how it is being used today. As the Internet continually broadens with new applications and digital tools, it further serves its reputation as an invaluable device for educating and learning-but not without risks.

In being a parent, there is the responsibility of teaching a child how to refrain from falling into the web’s entanglements while extracting its goods. By guiding a child to understand how to make smart choices both online and off, parents can help their child(ren) take full advantage of the Internet’s resources. To do that, parents must keep up to speed with technology and step into their child’s online world.

To help parents better understand the Internet’s use today, we have produced a list of ways that children and young adults utilize the Internet, and have included what parents should know, and do.

Studying Online

For students who have an assignment that needs research or a question that needs answering, the Internet is frequently the first, and only, stop. As students progress from elementary to junior high, from junior high to high school, and from high school to post secondary, school assignments may require simple web searches, to more in-depth observational reports with the use of online resources, including copy, images and videos. The number of children that spend time discussing schoolwork online transcends the number of children that spend time downloading music and videos online, according to the report “Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines to Online Social-and Educational-Networking”. The National School Boards Association also released research, uncovering that of the 1,277 9-to-17-year olds, 1,039 parents, and 250 school district leaders evaluated, 59 per cent spend time discussing education-related topics, “including college or college planning; learning outside of school; news; careers or jobs; politics; idea, religion, or morals; and schoolwork”.

Calling On Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds, a form of online community with a computer-based simulated environment, allow people of all ages to customize and control their own characters in a world that depicts one very similar to the real thing. The model worlds are designed to present perceptual stimuli to the user, who is able to control features and facets of the modeled world. According to media company Virtual Worlds Management, virtual worlds are so well-liked by children that there are 200 sites already live or being designed.

While some of these virtual worlds endorse users to buy virtual items for their character by winning or earning money, concentrating largely on consumer opportunities, other virtual worlds focus more heavily on strong educational factors that test players with fun, educational games.
Parents should ask their child for a virtual tour of his/her virtual world, and examine the site’s privacy features and parental controls. Some sites permit chat rooms for users, but block particular information, such as personal email addresses and telephone numbers. Other websites only allow it’s users to interact solely through prewritten phrases.

Playing Games Live Online

A number of computer and video games can be played online against friends and other players via the Internet. While this is good fun, and human players are better competitors vs. computer-controlled components, playing games online shares many of the same characteristics as online chat forums:
• Anonymous strangers
• Unfiltered, uncensored conversation
• Players can interact online through text messaging or voice

If a child plays online games, parents need to outline rules and inform their child of the risks and possible dangers from playing games online and in the discussion rooms.

Social Networking

Encouraging and allowing people to exchange information about themselves while communicating with the world are exactly what social networking sites do. Tweens, teens and young adults are flocking the web, spending up to nine hours a week visiting the Internet and social networking services; close to the same amount of time they spend viewing television shows (10 hours a week).

Social networking can break down psychological barriers to self-expression on the Internet, allowing children to share stories, photos, videos and other files with friends and acquaintances. A full 96 per cent of students revealed that they utilize the Internet and its resources for social networking, including Facebook, Webkins, MySpace and Nick.com chat.

As social networking increasingly continues to be used as a tool of communication and collaboration in many businesses and higher education, the best way for a parent to understand and learn more about social networking is to create a profile and explore the website’s various applications.

While children continue to grow, and as digital technology continues to develop, it is essential that parents bare interest in their child’s online life. Keep the lines of communication open, and if a child encounters an uncomfortable situation online, be sure they know to stop their Internet involvement immediately and tell an adult.