The internet is an amazing tool, especially for children looking to learn. It is essentially the world’s biggest library available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the web also has a darker side, and parents have to ask themselves the question “when is the right time to let my child go online?”
The Internet is the 20 century’s most incredible invention. There is greater access to information and knowledge, all for free and from the comfort of home. However, with the Internet’s great advantages comes the potential for abuse as well.
This is a far more complicated problem than it used to be. It is not all that long ago that the average household had no more than one computer, which may not have been connected to the internet. Now, however, we live in a time when households could have multiple computers. There might still be one shared “family” computer, but it is also very common for children to have their own computer or laptop. There are also phones and tablets to think of. Pester power is an incredible thing, and it’s a strong parent who is able to resist giving into demands for a tablet when “all my friends have one”.
Children are exposed to many good and bad websites. The danger is always there that children may surf websites that deal with pornography or illegal activities such as piracy and hacking. Many children may not be monitored by their parents at all. In fact, parents might not be aware that their children are surfing such websites.
There have been stories about children being kidnapped for ransom or sale. There have been also numerous stories about children being sexually abused or exploited through people met via chat websites. Naive children are easily misled into harmful situations.
Parents do have a very tricky balancing act to perform. On one hand, it would be foolish to deny a child access to the most valuable educational resource available, but on the other, particularly with younger children, it is something that has to be monitored. Everybody is busy nowadays, and this is certainly true for parents. How many people with children have the time to sit down with their offspring as they do their homework online, ensuring that they don’t stray from the beaten track? Some do, but far more are just not able to.
The question then arises as to when children should be allowed to use the Internet. When are they mature enough to read or watch the various streams of information that come through the Internet? Should they have parental supervision?
I strongly believe that parents must be fully aware of what is going on in the lives of their children. They need guidance and advice. Parents cannot give up their role because they claim to be too busy or tired. They must take the time and trouble to be there for their children.
Children mature at different ages. Only parents can know when their children are ready to deal with the various elements of the Internet. If they can advise the children and guide them through the early years, the children will be better prepared to make their own decisions as they grow older. Children need supervision and guidance through childhood and adolescence, especially in the modern world.
Children may resent their parents’ control strongly if parents interfere a lot when they are older. It is true that parents have to let go more of their control as the children grow older and hopefully wiser. It is unhealthy to keep them under their wings all the time. That will not work at all. However, during their growing years, it is good for parents to have a say in their children’s activities.