As parents we are constantly faced with new challenges and the need to learn new skills, not least when it comes to how we can help our children learn how to use the internet. Digital Parenting Magazine aim to provide parents with the latest expert advice to help children’s life skills needed in the online world and so we contacted them to look at how to strengthen children’s digital resilience. Here, co-chair of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety’s Digital Resilience Working Group, Vicki Shotbolt, explains how you can make sure your child has the tools they need to navigate the online world successfully.
What is digital resilience?
Digital resilience is part of your personality that develops from spending time online and facing the challenges out there, rather than avoiding the online world altogether. It means you can recognise when you’re at risk online, and know what to do.
A resilient child is more likely to stay safe online and more likely to benefit from all the opportunities the online world provides.
How can I help?
The best thing parents can do is to set boundaries so children know what they can do and what they can’t – and then let them explore.
They will make mistakes, but to learn they need to take risks. When they get into scrapes, it’s essential is you let them learn from them and help them recover – Then let them try again.
Who else can help?
Everyone has a part to play in building a child’s resilience. Having safe spaces to explore and take age-appropriate risks is vital, so industry has a big role here, building services that young people can enjoy with proper safeguards. Schools can teach critical- thinking skills so children can make sensible judgements about what they’re doing and seeing, and work on soft skills, like empathy and self-esteem.
Is resilience the same as toughening up?
Absolutely not! Children do need to take risks and they need to learn that they can recover when things go wrong. But that’s not the same as expecting children to just ‘toughen up’ when bad things happen. Getting help and resolving problems is really important.
What you can do?
Left to their own devices, young people are unlikely to develop greater resilience and understanding without some opportunity to share their experiences with adults. We may not understand all the apps or devices they use, but we do have thoughts about what is good and bad in the world, and the sharing of values can be a fantastic way for young people to process their experiences. Finding ways to discuss some of the more challenging content that they come across, whether pornography, beheadings, ultra-thin models or animal cruelty, can really help young people. When we cannot bear to speak about difficult issues, or try to erase or shut them down, those issues become more, rather than less, frightening, and what has been seen just cannot be unseen. Talking together makes a difference.
Promoting digital resilience in real life
A worrying image
Jacqui notices that her 8-year-old, Tiana, had become withdrawn. She left the room whenever the news came on and didn’t look at her phone as much as normal.
When Jacqui asked what was wrong, Tiana said that she had seen a photo of an elephant being shot online, and she was upset and scared to log on.
Jacqui talked to Tiana about how she felt and ways to avoid I happening again, such as using Google SafeSearch and using more relevant words when searching online. Jacqui let Tiana know it’s important that she tells someone in future if anything upsets her, and encouraged her to go back online when she felt ready.
Jamie, 13, wanted to create a public YouTube account to perform his magic tricks. His dad Sam was worried Jamie was too young to cope with negative comments, and that predatory adults may contact him or try to track him down in real life.
Jamie explained that there is a huge, supportive network of young magicians out there, and his own channel will let him join in. They talked about posting videos safely, not revealing his contact details or location, how to report inappropriate approaches, and who Jamie could talk to if anything upset him. Jamie initially posted videos with comments turned off, turning them on when he felt more confident.
Vicki Shotbolt, CEO ParentZone, and Dr Richard Graham, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, Nightingale Hospital and London Digital Mental Well-being Service (http://www.digitalwellbeing.london/)
Thanks to Digital Parenting Magazine for reproduction of this article. Vodafone’s Digital Parenting magazine can be ordered by schools and youth organisations to share with the families they work with. Find out more here.