“Good afternoon ma, you do not know me but I follow you on Instagram and I see what you are doing”. “Thank you for following me, how may I help you ma” I responded. ‘’I have a challenge and I do not know who to talk with’’ the lady continued ‘’my child is addicted to pornography and she is just 9 years old. What can I do how can you help me’’?
I often get calls like this from parents who have caught their children with pornographic materials on their devices, with the availability and easy access to the internet we now have children indulging in pornography and other unwholesome activities.
The internet is a useful tool which our children can use to their advantage. It can bring loads of opportunities to them. They can acquire new skills by using the internet, it helps them academically and also teaches them more about countries they have not been to, or people they have never met. The internet has brought the larger world closer and making the world a global village.
However, there are also dangers that the unsupervised usage of the internet can bring.
As a parent, you are to be deliberate in raising your child and be intentional in carrying out your role.
Your role as a parent includes the following but not limited to
1) Providing for the basic needs of your children
2) Protecting your child from danger (external and internal)
3) Teaching and guiding
4) Discipline and direct
5) Unconditional love.
Using the internet has its advantages and disadvantages.
Children of this generation are known as the digital natives while we are known as the digital migrant because we were from a pre-digital age and had to learn more about the internet, but these children were born into the computer, internet and social media era where all they need to do to know more about the internet is simply to hold the device and they are good to go. we are to teach them healthy usage of the internet
Advantages of the internet for children
Academics- It helps with their homework, research, school communication and online reading
Skills development – They can learn new skills like coding, cooking, communication, etiquette, musical
Recreational activities- Recreational activities like games, workout, tips for sports can also be gotten online.
Encourage your children to make the best use of their time online and with their screen.
Disadvantages of unsupervised usage of the internet
Sexual and crime predators
How do you protect your child?
1) The first thing to do as parent is to teach yourself more about the internet and its usage then you educate your children about the internet and how to be safe. Teach them responsible online behavior
2) Give them basic guidelines and healthy boundaries
3) Create family rules like; Do not trade pictures, know the type of pictures to post, do not share password or personal information and to respect other people online.
4) Teach them to adhere to family rules for screen time like, not using phones during meal times, having a cut off time for internet usage.
5) If you are to give a child an internet enabled device (mobile or stationary) you are to protect your child by supervising his internet usage and installing online protection tools / software on all devices (television, mobile devices and even gaming devices) this is to protect or control their access to inappropriate and unhealthy content and also to block access to certain sites.
Monitor, regulate and track online activities of your teenagers by following all their social media handles but please do not comment unless you want to be blocked and unfriended.
As your children get older, your control over their internet usage decreases you will only be able to influence them, that’s why you need to have done a proper job in educating them earlier when younger. there are lots of virtual sites you need to be aware of and teach them to be smart users.
Encourage your children to have screen-off days where they can still learn to have fun without their mobile devices or their screens, encourage board games, outdoor activities like taking a nature walk, playing sports or aerobic exercise.
The internet is here to stay, let’s prepare and teach our children to be smart users by knowing about its advantages and disadvantages.
Oluwatoyin Ogunkanmi is the founder of Parenting support system and the author of the best-selling book “Smart Parenting’’ and Parenting Journal. She is a certified family life practitioner and also a certified parenting educator.
You can connect with her on the following social media handles Instagram or Facebook @oluwatoyinogunkanmi.