The internet is a remarkable tool for learning and being entertained but like most good things in this world, it also has a dark side. Allowing your child to go online unsupervised can leave them open to the risks of online bullying, identity theft and sexual predators. They can also access information/images that are unsuitable for children –issues discussed on Quibly along with broader e safety issues. If you are going to allow your child to go online unsupervised it must only be after a strict set of rules have been laid down which must be strictly adhered to if continued unsupervised use is to be allowed.
If you are going to let your child go online the big question is at what age should they be allowed to do so. Microsoft asked 1,000 adults, both parents and non-parents “How old is too young for kids to go online unsupervised?”
The survey found that eight years old is the average age at which parents allow independent use of the internet with 40% of parents allowing their children to use a computer unsupervised.
Microsoft’s Kim Sanchez, Director of Online Safety, wrote, “There is no magic age, but rather, parents should take into consideration the appropriateness for their individual family and responsibility or maturity level of their child.”
How mature your child is will play an important factor in whether they should be allowed to use the internet unsupervised. If you do allow them unsupervised use you need to set rules that must be adhered to.
These include teaching your child how to deal with unexpected or odd messages and not to open any attachments, if they do receive messages that upset them they must never reply to them. That only gives the sender a chance to send out another upsetting email
Apps chosen should only be those appropriate for their age and maturity and have received good reviews. Also show your child how to make social network pages private and recommend that the friends they accept are people they have actually met. Encourage your child to let you know if they see anything online that has made them feel uncomfortable.
Chatting is the most important aspect of online use that has to be closely examined. It’s the most dangerous activity your child can do online simply because of the way in which it can be corrupted. With usernames you never really know who it is you’re talking to or how old they are.
Some parents choose to use parental controls to limit their kids’ Internet access, as seen in the “how old is too young to go online” debate on HardForum.
If you do allow your child to use the internet unsupervised and have set down specific rules, it’s important to make sure they are following them. You can look at their browsing history and check the recycle bin for evidence of them accessing unsuitable sites. Look out for signs that your child is trying to be secretive about what they do online.
Children can be allowed to use the internet unsupervised but only once strict conditions have been imposed.