Educating your child about the internet

There’s some parenting advice and wisdom that has lived on for centuries. Your great-great-great grandparents experienced things raising their children that you will also experience in strikingly similar fashion (surprise, tantrums are not a 21st-century invention). Parenting around the internet, however, is not one of those things.

Although the existence of the internet can make raising children a bit of a challenge, it also means that Baby is going to grow up in a world where information and resources are right at their fingertips. It’s a pretty fair trade-off. To start teaching Baby about the internet now, there are a few easy conversations you can have.

How do you explain the internet to a toddler?

In the age of smartphones and tablets, Baby will probably have an idea of what the internet is from a pretty early age. For a while, it might just be “that place where I play games,” so this is your opportunity to talk about what the internet is and what you can do with it.

The internet is pretty complicated when you get down to it, so you might just explain it as a way to share things between different computers across the world. Like a book has many pages with different words, the internet has many websites with different information.

What’s it for?

The real answer is “a lot of things,” but for Baby, it’s probably best to keep it simple. What is they going to use it for? You might explain that you use it for work, learning, fun, or sending pictures to grandma and grandpa. You can then say that Baby can use it to play games, learn new things, or maybe video chat with relatives who live far away.

There is, of course, the question of what you don’t want Baby using it for. Even if they are just looking for a game, it’s possible to stumble into some corners of the internet that aren’t made for them. You might want to tell Baby that the internet is something really cool that you want to use together. It could help to set aside specific times to use it, like scheduling an hour every Friday to play a game together.

What are the rules?

Boundaries can be helpful for children in many ways, and the internet is no exception. It’s new territory, and it’s your job to guide Baby through it. The rules of internet use are going to be different in every household, but you might consider setting time limits, limiting use to certain websites or programs, or using parental controls. Using password protection on computers, smartphones, and tablets can make this a little easier.

Keeping in mind that rules are different for everyone, you might want to have a conversation with your child about using the internet at friends’ houses or when you’re not around. And then maybe follow up with the parents too. Parental controls aren’t just digital, after all.

  • “Guidelines for keeping your kids safe.” Internet Safety for Kids. Goodwill Community Foundation. 2016. Web.

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