Social networking is all around us and often replaces face-to-face interaction in many instances. Even small children need to live a practically isolated existence to not know what Facebook is. Rather than shield your children from internet socializing, you can use it to positively teach them about the world around them. The end result often involves a little one who properly understands the basics of internet safety, cultural awareness and proper regard for one another.
Basic Safety and Enrichment
Don’t forbid your child from using the internet. Likewise, do not give them free reign of it. Sound confusing? It can be if you are not prepared. Instead, share with your children basic internet safety protocols that can then translate into real life – don’t accept gifts from strangers, do not provide personal information to someone you don’t know (or even those you think you do), and respect the internet as a wealth of knowledge, information and fun – that does not need to be used 24/7.
Spend computer time together with your child, allowing them to see pictures and comments from people on your Facebook account they know and love. Seeing cheerleading pictures of a favorite cousin or receiving a special message from grandma through your personal Facebook page may curb the curiosity and desire to venture into their own social networking world. And spending extra time with mom is usually a bonus too – especially with the younger kids.
If you share space with a right-brained child, why not allow them to create videos to share in cyberspace? YouTube has a little-known guide available via their homepage on how to make an account safe for kids. If you don’t want to go through the trouble, then leave the uploading and comment moderating to the parents – kids can fulfill their music video aspirations through planning, practicing and filming – then you can reward them via uploading it and showing them encouraging comments from friends and family.
Artwork can also be created online. Whether you use MS Paint or Photoshop, your kids can learn to use these tools and then use a personal email account to send it to friends and family. Email for kids is usually safe – but make sure you have their password so you can check on what exactly is being sent, and to make sure they aren’t receiving any spam that is inappropriate in their inbox.
If your child is old enough to have a Facebook or personal YouTube page, be sure to use it to further enrich your relationship. Comment on your kid’s wall or “like” their status. They won’t be nearly as embarrassed by you as you may foresee, and it can strengthen your bond when you’re willing to enter into their cyber world.
Sites that are Safe
Today’s world, if nothing else, is very small. Kids are able to communicate with others their age living across the globe – and they should. Having pen pals in China, Africa and England has never been simpler or more instant – and there are ways for your kids to connect and share activities with these youngsters without ever needing a Facebook account!
- Fanlala – Set up almost exactly like Myspace (remember them?), your child can blog, share photos and participate in various virtual groups. Best of all, it requires parents to verify their identity with a credit card or phone call.
- Edmodo – classes can connect with both classmates and other schools around the world. Teachers tout it as a Facebook for the classroom, and kids who are normally shy in class will speak up in written form. It’s a great way for your child to participate and grow academically.
- Club Penguin – created by Disney, it is fun and enriching for kids, allowing them to play games and network socially with other young children around the world.
These are just a few of the great ways for kids to be enriched and grow alongside a world that depends upon technology to function and thrive.
Written by Tamara Warta