The art of distraction: innovation at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Kids, the internet and sucking eggs

Asking young people about the internet gets you a shrug and the beliefs that it’s always been there and free access via the latest, coolest piece of technology should be a basic human right. Their approach is fearless; expecting an online experience that’s ever bigger, better, faster, MORE. So, is trying to protect such computer-literate children online like teaching your granny how to suck eggs?

There’s definitely little we can teach young people in terms of the functional aspects of how to do things. Recent Ofcom research showed that 70 per cent of parents with children aged between 12 and 15 believe their children know more about the internet than they do.1 In fact children across the developed world pick up computer skills long before other they reach more traditional learning milestones: seven out of every ten children aged between two and five know how to use a mouse and a computer, yet only two in ten can swim or tie laces.2 And socialising online begins early too: over half of eight to ten year olds using the internet at home have a social networking profile.2

But technical skills are not everything. in terms of how to stay safe online we do have something to contribute; if you view the internet as an extension of society, then we’ve been there, done that and are qualified to give guidance.

Being safe online from any form of negative experience — from fraud, to cyber-bullying, to forming contacts with inappropriate people — depends largely on understanding the value of security, trust and privacy and how these things relate to the individual. It’s about discussing the tricks, scams and dangers out there with children in a way that’s appropriate for their age — and revisiting the subject from time-to-time as they get older. Be careful with your personal information; remember not everyone is who they say they are; always tell someone where you’re going when you meet up with a new friend — timeless advice for any technological age. So put the eggs away and have confidence in the value of your experience.

Next time…using technology for protection online…

1Adult media literacy report, Ofcom April 2011 2AVG report, January 2011 covering 2,200 mothers with internet access across the developed world

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