Your wider digital family
Working across the generations to keep children safe online
The importance of the role of the wider family in ensuring the safety of children in the digital world cannot be overstated. Despite the growth of the internet as a way to spend time and socialise, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents are still the people with whom our young children and teenagers are spending much of their time.
Friendships at a distance
It is becoming more common for families from Qatar to spend time living overseas. Whether it is parents and their families moving for work reasons, or children and young people going to school or university, our digital children often have friends and relatives with whom they can only keep in touch by telephone or over the internet.
This is one of the great advantages of the digital world; it gives our families the opportunity to maintain friendships over long distances. By using social networks like Instagram or WhatsApp, or making video calls using Facetime or Skype, the important relationships that our children have with their cousins and other relatives are able to continue.
Different places, same rules
Wherever our children are, it is important that Digital Parents can be confident that their families remain safe online. Whether children are at a cousin’s house or at home with an older sibling, the guidelines that are in place need to be maintained as much as possible.
It’s not just relatives, but other members of the household too; the increase in numbers of nannies in Qatar means that they must play a part in supervising children’s access to and use of the internet.
If your child attends a nursery where iPads and other internet-enabled devices are available for the children to use, ask the staff what digital safety measures they have in place and how they make sure that the guidelines are being followed.
Communication is key…
The most important action that Digital Parents must take is to tell the other adults and older siblings who may be in charge of your children exactly what guidelines and restrictions you have in place. This is a good reason to try to stick to a small number of clear rules, rather than a long list which changes from day to day.
For example, you might focus on:
- How long your child is allowed to spend using internet-enabled devices each day
- Which websites, apps and social networks they are allowed to use
- What happens if your children break the rules; does their smartphone get taken away or games console get turned off?
- Why your children might need to be online for longer than normal; perhaps they have homework to do or it is their only chance that week to speak to a particular friend who lives some distance away
It may also be that Digital Parents are in charge of their nieces and nephews. The same principles apply, and it may be useful to talk with other family members to see if it is possible to have some of the same rules and limits in place across your wider family. The security of children in the digital world is important, and anything which makes it easier to keep them safe is worth considering.