Christmas is children's favourite time of the year since they receive all sorts of gifts. At the top of their wish list are usually electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops and game consoles. Parents often find it difficult to determine whether what the child is asking for is appropriate for their age and if it meets relevant safety requirements. For many children today, their first internet experience is at an early age, mainly through a tablet or smartphone.
Before giving your child an electronic device, think and decide how and under what conditions you want them to use it. For example, is online gaming allowed? Searching for different topics on the internet? Talking to other users? Downloading apps?
The Greek SIC has released a number of articles on www.saferinternet4Kids.gr to tell parents what they need to watch out for when buying any type of electronic device and what criteria to follow in order to ensure the device is age-appropriate.
Secure the device
Ensure that the device is child-friendly. Parental controls must be activated for young children. It is a good idea to get familiar with the way the device works, the reference tools on the websites, and any security tools.
For new users of electronic devices, the conversation must be simple and it is good to set limits and rules from the beginning, in particular regarding where and how long your child can use the device for. For example, many parents only let their children use the electronic device during a couple of fixed hours, and encourage them to use it in communal areas where they can be supervised. Make sure that, if your child gets upset by something they have seen online, they will come and confide in you without fear or shame. Regular chatting with the child will help build a positive internet experience from a very young age. It is also important to talk about issues such as privacy, inappropriate content, sharing of personal information and cyberbullying.
Educational material for very small children
The internet is now more easily accessible to very young children thanks to touch technology that requires fewer subtle motor skills. Very young children mostly watch animated videos or funny content on YouTube or play games, and their online activity is mostly done through their parents' devices. The main danger at this sensitive age is accidental access to inappropriate content, by opening pop-up windows, through unattended online search, or as they watch YouTube.
It is therefore vital to talk to very young children about what is right or wrong when going online, and to explain to them in simple words what to watch out. The Greek SIC has created educational resources on the topic for kindergarten and elementary school children which can be used as a learning tool in the classroom or at home. The resources consist of two e-books:
"Digiduck's big decision" from Childnet (UK) translated in Greek, dealing with children's feelings on the internet and how easily something we think is funny can actually hurt our friends.
- "Athena and her new tablet" which teaches children healthy online habits.
The resources also contain puzzles, which are very popular among children, as well as comics starring two characters named Athena and Artemis, who, through their adventures, teach very young children about personal data and how to protect it.
Last but not least, the material includes two animated videos where Athena and Hermes simply tell the young kids what they need to watch out for, what cyberbullying is, and how to react if it happens to them.
Find out more information about the work of the Greek Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.