Young children and adolescents are becoming hyper connected. They are using digital technologies as a platform for learning, connection and socialisation on a global scale. The COVID pandemic meant that kids were moving online for many of their daily activities and spending more time online.
In South Africa, children generally access the internet at home much more frequently than at school, and most commonly using a smartphone. Their main online activity is use of social media.
Connecting online has the potential to reduce inequalities and barriers to education and services. But there is also a risk of exposure to a range of threats. In one survey, about 50% of South African adolescents had been exposed to sexual content and 34% also reported exposure to violent content and hate speech.
Not all exposure is risky or damaging. But what can parents do to monitor their children's use of the internet and protect them from potential harm?
The answer lies in finding the right balance between empowerment and protection. The internet is here to stay. Parents should engage with their children on the digital world. The quality of offline relationships and communication is the key to protecting children online.
In today's episode of Pasha, Rachana Desai, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand, offers some tips:
Download the apps that your child frequently uses and understand why your child enjoys them.
Ask your child to teach you how to use the technology they use. This is a great communication and interaction activity because children often like to teach their parents and it's quite empowering for them.
Friend your child on social media platforms - with boundaries. Do it in such a way that they still have their own space to express themselves.
Talk to your child about their experiences online. Ask them open ended questions like whether there was anything that bothered them online. You want to get to know what's going on without over-supervising and then having your child completely isolate you from the online world.
Photo "Happy boy taking a break watching a portable tablet with earphones" by Hello Africa, found on Getty Images.
Authors: Ozayr Patel - Digital Editor | Rachana Desai - Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand