The latest ST article ‘Parenting dilemmas in the digital age’ (17 October 2016) set us thinking again – how do we navigate that often perilous path of ensuring that our children are digitally savvy but not slaves to their mobile devices  and the online world ?

Immediately after the PSLE ended on 4th October 2016 (5th October for those who sat for the Higher MT exam) many students would have gone on a digital binge with endless hours of TV, online games, mobile games and the like after months (or even years) of deprivation. Given that it’s been about two weeks since the PSLE ended, many would have already gotten their fix and cries of “I’m bored, tell me what to do” might be commonplace in some households. In others, the binge continues.

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Let’s talk about the children in the second scenario. Is it a good idea to continue a ‘free-for-all’ strategy of letting these children watch as much TV or play online / mobile games for as long as they want? We believe, as we discussed in our previous blog ‘Technology – a double edged sword?’, that moderation is still key if we don’t want them to face severe withdrawal symptoms come January 2017 when the new school year begins. Also as boredom sets in with the games that they are currently playing, they might start to look for other avenues online to entertain themselves. If they are left unsupervised for hours on end, this could spell grave danger.

It is imperative therefore to teach our children [if we haven’t already] how to conduct their online lives.

Really? What can ‘digital immigrants’ teach ‘digital natives’ about the online world?

As classroom teachers of more than 20 years, believe us when we say there is plenty you can teach them.  Yes our children are ‘digital natives’, a term coined by consultant Marc Prensky in 2001. However, it is a myth that these ‘digital natives’ know everything about computers and the internet and all things digital.

Where parental guidance is especially needed is in the area of ethics and safety. Just like it is our responsibility to teach our children not to cheat and not to be too trusting of strangers in the real world, the onus is also on us to teach our children how to keep themselves safe and how not to be dishonest in their online dealings. While these areas are often under the purview of teachers n school, we should also do our part as parents.

The post-PSLE period is  a good time for this for two reasons

  • In many secondary schools, students are expected to bring laptops to school as it is an integral part of teaching and learning. Even in those schools that do not require students to bring a laptop, a substantial part of the curriculum involves online learning. In short, your children will be spending quite a lot of time online whether you like it or not.
  • The lull after the ‘madness’ of the preparations for PSLE is one of those rare occasions when your children do not feel the pressures of school, homework or CCA and will probably be in a better frame of mind to listen to you.

Don’t know where to start? Perhaps some of these sites can help

Raising Internet-Savvy and Smart Kids

Promoting Responsible and Ethical Digital Citizens

How to discuss internet safety with your teen

9 rules of digital citizenship

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