Children around the world are spending more time online than they have in previous years.* On average, kids spend 1.6 hours per day online. That’s 11.4 hours per week, an increase of 10% compared to 2009 figures.
These are the top 5 searches performed by Canadian kids in 2009:
|Teen (13-18)||Tween (8-12)||7 & Under|
|5||MySpace||Club Penguin||Club Penguin|
*Norton Online Family Report for Canada, 2010
What can we conclude by looking at Kids’ Top 5 Searches?
- Children of all ages love YouTube. (For many kids this includes downloading, uploading and watching videos.)
- Children of all ages search engine of choice is Google
- Children of all ages use social media and all kids are using sites like Facebook that were originally designed for use by adult communities
- Children of all ages are accessing online sexual material
- Younger children like to play virtual reality games.
What can parents do with this information?
- Ask children to share their favourite YouTube videos with you. Ask them what’s interesting in the video. Find some videos that you both like and talk critically about them.
- Use Google together. Talk about how to pick good key words and how to limit searches. Talk about credible sources.
- Discuss online behaviour and protocol. Talk about the idea that photographs, videos and text posted online become a permanent digital record.
- Talk to children about how to choose and change passwords, online monikers, avatars, gravatars, usernames and email addresses. Find out how many email addresses your child possesses and be aware of your child’s online identity. (As an example, “lovelylady” might not be an appropriate part of an email address for your daughter who is 6 years old.)
- Visit your child’s favourite sites and get familiar with them. Talk to your child about why he/she finds the sites interesting. Discuss content on the sites. Help your child decide whether these sites are appropriate. Find interesting sites together.
- Consider providing your child with access to age-appropriate sexual information. There are many excellent books, videos, and works of art, films and other resources on the subject. Frankly answering your own child’s questions will help most of all. Mayo Clinic’s advice on how to talk to your kid about sex has some good pointers.
- Establish some rules around online playing of video games, such as:
Brady’s Bothwell Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Video Games
(Brady Bothwell is a 24-year-old Toronto music production artist who spent his childhood playing video games.)
1. Read the video game ratings on the back of the game and decide whether the game is appropriate for your child.
2. Sit with your child for the first few times the game is played and see for yourself and your child whether the game is appropriate for your family.
3. If you as a parent do not think that a game is appropriate do not have it in your home.
4. Confer with the parents of your child’s closest friends to make sure that they know what content you find appropriate and inappropriate in video games.
5. Have discussions with your child about what he or she thinks about the game in relation to the real world. (The child should be able to clearly understand the difference between the online world and the real world.)