But walk across any playground, and you’ll quickly see the biggest influence on kids are other kids. When school let’s out, all the little communities come together. In some corners, they’re showing off their LEGO. In others, they’re mimicking some dance they saw on MTV. And through it all, they’re talking, talking, talking.
Sure, LEGO and MTV are ultimately the influencers in this case. But it’s the kids themselves who introduce the latest sensations to each other. And they’re not just talking about what movies to see or what games to buy. They’re discussing things they or someone they know encountered on the web. Whether they’re all connected to the internet or not, its content gets passed along.
I recently spoke with a second grade teacher, and you know how many of her students had a mobile phone? 50 percent. If those are unsecured web-enabled devices, half the class could have access to the Internet right there at school… And that web content could be making its way to the other half.
This may prove somewhat worrisome to those of us who do everything we can to control our kids’ exposure to the web, but it shouldn’t. It just means being a parent in today’s digital era isn’t just about control. It’s also about providing the kind of guidance that takes over when our control lapses.
This isn’t to say that security software geared toward family safety isn’t a must. Or that we shouldn’t still monitor our kids’ use of the web. But we also need to remember we’re not the only ones influencing our kids. And rather than try to ignore this fact, we should help guide our kids as the world around them tries to shape their lives.
The time to talk to kids about the Internet isn’t when they’re actually on it. It’s now. Let them know the web can be a dangerous place. Let them know kids shouldn’t be on it unsupervised. But also let them know you’re not only there to help make sense of things when the web finds its way into their world, but to enjoy their positive web experiences with them as well.
Image by Paul Mayne used under Creative commons license.