Kids owning their own computers is a relatively new phenomenon, and with the advent and popularity of laptops, it’s a growing trend with today’s youth. Computers are necessary for everything these days, from work to school, and more schools than ever are utilizing laptops as teaching tools and homework stations. In our recent Back-to-School Shopping survey, we polled parents about how they felt regarding their kids owning their own laptops, and 54% of them said they were concerned to some degree. We wanted to know more about what’s behind these concerns, so we reached out to parents and experts alike for their feedback.
According to an Intel Security study, 89% of parents find it important that kids are trained in cybersecurity to protect themselves from online threats. These same parents worry that their children will be targeted by predators, which is a justified concern when you look at the 27% of kids who say they’ve met or would meet someone they know online. Some parents physically watch their children while they’re on the computer, but parents can’t always be right next to their child while they’re browsing online. So how can parents reliably monitor their kids on a device that can go anywhere?
Inspired eLearning’s Cyber Security Advisor and former DIA Senior Intelligence Officer, Tyler Cohen Wood, author of “Catching the Catfishers,” was adamant about talking to kids about the dangerous of the Internet.
It’s really important for parents to have this conversation with their kids, that whatever you post online is forever,” she said, adding that parents should teach their children how to be discerning of online strangers, much like they would a stranger on the street. The most important thing you can do for your child to protect them online is communicate, according to Cohen Wood. “Sit with them, go through what they’re doing, go through social media applications . . . be involved as you possibly can be,” and keep those communication lines open.
We followed up with another expert, Stacey Connor, who is Intel Security’s Online Safety Expert, on what parents can do to protect their kids when schools are basically requiring laptops for learning these days. She wants parents to “understand the social media platforms your kids are using and monitor the physical device. It’s important for your to understand where your kids are going online and who they are talking to.” Education on “appropriate online behavior,” is key to helping your child navigate the dense jungle of information that is the Internet.
We reached out to parents as well as experts to understand their concerns and opinions on how best to protect their children online. FatWallet SEO specialist, Alicia Ragaller, said she keeps an eye on her daughter’s computer usage by sitting with her and answering any questions she has about potentially questionable content as it comes up. Cofounder of MobileMovieMaking.com, Murray Suid, said his granddaughter’s parents also answer questions she has about things she sees online and aren’t afraid to let her explore her mini iPad. Neither seemed particularly alarmed by children using the Internet, and both believed in taking an active role in a child’s time online. Other parents chimed in, notably Lee Munson, security researcher for Compartech.com, with the affirmation that communication and direct involvement with their child’s activities online best protects them.
In my opinion as a father of three,” said Munson, “a child, using a laptop with good parental controls, should still be supervised and questioned about what they are doing online, especially when they are very young.”
With all the warnings and serious chats about Internet safety, it can feel like the online world is almost too dangerous to warrant children using it. But well supervised kids are thriving online, creating businesses and making a difference in their communities. Organizations like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are helping uplift young creators to learn and succeed, creating opportunities online for kids like Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, the makers of Tampon Run. These two met at a Girls Who Code summer camp and partnered up to create a web browser-based game that works to destigmatize feminine hygiene products. Since their web release, they’ve launched an iPhone app version of the game.
Don’t be afraid to let your kids connect online,” says Stacey Connor, “Despite some potentially negative consequences, allowing kids to connect online is a good thing. It helps them feel closer to their peers, fosters a sense of community and helps them learn how to communicate. It’s important to not let the negatives outshine the positive aspects of the internet like learning, researching and staying in touch with family and friends.”
Parents who support their children in their online ventures tend to see amazing results. With Pokemon Go’s release, young entrepreneur Athen Salcedo created the Poke Glo, a reflective device shaped like a Pokeball, so that players would stay safe walking in the dark to catch Pokemon. He started by selling them on the sidewalk to passersby and, with his mom’s help, turned his prototype into a successful crowdfunding campaign. Leanna Archer was able to go from giving away free samples of her great-grandmother’s hair products to selling them online, creating a six-figure business out of her website. Suid said his granddaughter takes photographs using her iPad and was able to sell one of them, another demonstration of the positive power of the Internet. He advocates for “sensible safety instructions,” saying, “Think of the laptop as a Swiss Army knife,” potentially dangerous, but ultimately very useful.
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