7 November 2016

When do young people start using the internet? When should they?

code club UKFast

Teaching the next generation of tech talent.

It is amazing to see so many young children learning how to access a digital world from as young as three or four years old. We see children – mine included – using devices such as phones and tablets particularly not just for playing games, but for creating them!

It’s incredible to see how quickly they pick up anything technical or digital. Yet it is easy for them to use these apps without thinking about the fact that they are connected to the rest of the world.

One of the big questions is, when should you expect your child to start using the internet for communicating through social media, forums and apps? Should young people be taught the rules of a successful online life when they first gain access to it? It’s an interesting debate and one that is becoming increasingly more important.

I remember reading in a BBC survey not that long ago that three-quarters of children aged 10 to 12 in the UK have social media account, even though they are below the age limit. Although the internet has brought me so many opportunities, it presents obvious risks and challenges.

Social media platforms have a built a poor reputation for harassment and cyber bullying, as well as no limit of irresponsible behaviour. Social media is undoubtedly a powerful tool to connect with others, to inspire and be inspired, to search for opportunities. But children should invariably be fully informed about the way the content and words that they chose to share might impact their later lives.

I sometimes forget that my kids will grow up having an online presence and they will carry it with them throughout their lives. It’s is staggering to think that what we post online never goes away. It is there forever, even after you’ve deleted it.

We live in a time when employers are already screening the social profiles of potential new hires and when car insurers can set the price of their premium based on someone’s shares and statuses. Imagine what life will be like in ten or twenty years’ time!

So, who is responsible for the ‘online education’ of our kids? Parents? Schools? Or even the businesses that will employ them later in life? I think we can all play a part.

It is time for schools and parents to encourage kids not to include too many personal details on their profile, such as birthdays or their school’s name, for example. From a security point of view, too much information only makes it easier for strangers to contact them.

Parents should now be talking to their children about what it means to post anything online to help to stop problems in the future, help them ensure that they understand that their posts can be viewed by many people, many years from now. It’s a big responsibility for these young people to consider.

Businesses can help by working to make the internet a safer place, as well as communicating positively with young people online.

It’s important to remember that social media isn’t just bad news though. It opens up so many doors to your kids – a whole world of discovery – as long as it’s used right.

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