If you’re not feeling particularly au fait with all this new technology, luckily you’re not alone. A recent study by Nominet asked 1,001 UK parents with children aged 10-18 years old how they felt about their children’s online activities, revealing some interesting findings and showing that even net-savvy parents sometimes struggle.
One in three of the parents surveyed would be worried if they heard their child say ‘I’m going to torrent a song’. But almost a quarter wouldn’t be concerned and over 40% don’t know what ‘bit torrenting’ is. 58% believe that their child could get into trouble if they update a friend’s Facebook status without permission, although younger parents are less concerned. And just three in ten feel that a child with more than one user profile could indicate a problem.
So what can you do to narrow the digital divide, or even close it altogether?
Get a computer driving licence
Many people learn computer skills naturally, without formal training. If you want to broaden your basic knowledge and keep up with your kids, you could take the excellent, practical and widely respected ECDL course, the European Computer Driving Licence, which covers all the IT fundamentals. Alternatively, your local adult education centre probably runs a suitable course.
Spend time online with your kids
As the influence of the web grows, digital safety is becoming more of an issue. Because younger parents aren’t always as fluent as their children, you need to close the knowledge gap if you want to do your bit to help them stay safe and secure online. Your children might be competent on a computer, but because they’re immature they are often completely unaware of the risks. It’s important for parents to know what their children are doing online and learn from them. Once you know what the risks are, you can help your kids avoid them.
If you’re not in it, you can’t win it. The more time you spend exploring the online world together, the more you will learn about your child’s habits and preferences. Once you know the ins and outs of their favourite social network or networks, you’ll be in a position to close the gap and teach them to socialise responsibly and safely.
Ask your children to teach you
The digital divide means we’re in a unique situation. For the first time, net-familiar children often know more than their parents. One great way of narrowing the gap and redressing the balance is to ask them to teach you.
Learn netiquette and text speak
Just like in real life, children need to be taught what’s good manners and what’s rude. Make yourself familiar with netiquette so you can help your children enjoy the online experience to the full. As they grow older, it’s also a great idea to learn netspeak/text speak, breaking the language barrier so you can OMG and LOL with the best of them!
Talk the talk…
Chatting about your kids’ online lives is an excellent way to narrow the digital divide, learn what they do, when, how and why. The more you know, the better for everyone concerned. You can join in, mediate, enhance their experiences and keep them safe from trouble.
Keep up with future change
The digital world is changing fast, and it’s still in its infancy. This means that parents have an on-going task; to stay aware and up to date so they can support their children until they’re old enough to use the net safely, securely, positively and sensibly on their own.