Internet is here to stay. No matter how hard we try, a life without the world wide web seems impossible now, and so is the exposure of children to the Internet. Torn between the pride in watching their tech-savvy children’s ease with smartphones or tabs and the concern over the rising addiction to gadgets and Internet, parents have realised time has come to act — to take up the challenge of making children responsible netizens.
With the dangers of cyber bullying, stalking and exposure to adult content lurking at every corner of the virtual world and causing social, psychological and emotional stress at a young age, it becomes mandatory for parents to know age-appropriate internet platforms for their children.
Maintaining a balance between online and offline activities is a must, says Harsh Wardhan Dave, Head, Experience & Brand, Worldoo.com, a website for children in the age group of 6 to 12.
“Being on the Internet can be the same as a playground experience, where you are aware of the dangers of falling down, yet as parents you are always there to supervise and keep an eye out for impending danger,” he says.
Despite the dangers, however, it cannot be denied that Internet can be beneficial to children in many ways. A parent’s most important role, hence, becomes to maintain a balance in its usage in order to maximise the benefits, says Dave.
“For example, if your child has a keen interest in nature, there are various platforms such as National Geographic.com or Jeff Corwin Connect that explain nature in a very fun way, supplemented with games and videos. This can become more meaningful when supplemented with a visit to the local nature park or a trek to a natural reserve,” he adds.
Worldoo.com calls itself an “online ecosystem for kids”, presenting “a complete environment of entertainment and education housing a variety of content”. The site has stories, latest jokes, and a variety of do-it-yourself activities besides cartoons, movies, games, arts and crafts.
Among other popular educational websites are pbskids.org and wonderopolis.org. While PBS offers learning through a variety of games, Wonderopolis “walks the line between formal and informal education”. At Wonderopolis, a child is greeted with an intriguing question — such as “Do doctors ever get sick?” or “Can you eat ice cream for a living?” — every day and gets to explore it in a variety of ways.
National Geographic Little Kids is another website that features games, crafts and recipes, science, videos and information on animals and mainly caters to children aged 5 years and below.
It is, however, should be seen that children do not end up depending on the Internet as a complete replacement for social interaction. Quoting reports, Dave says the Internet addiction among kids also depends on the heavy Internet usage by parents. “Parents should thus take necessary steps to ensure they are good role models in their own technology usage. When they are able to maintain an effective control over technology instead of allowing it to control them, the Internet proves to be a great resource,” he says.
Internet is known to improve cognitive abilities such as memory, abstraction, critical thinking, comprehension and spatial and logical problem solving, thus helping increase your IQ. Technology can supplement a child’s inherent inquisitive nature through the use of videos, digital images, audio and touch mechanism.
Dave’s suggestion to parents is to regularly speak to their children on appropriate online behaviour. “In an ideal situation, every parent should be able to stay one step ahead of their child in being net savvy.
In this context, Worldoo.com wants to be seen as a school of Internet learning for children through which they can graduate to other platforms on the web in a more responsible manner.
“The element of learning is satisfied very subtly so as to first engage the user and then send the message of learning across. For example, in keeping a virtual pet, we want them to understand that besides playing with it, they also have to feed it and take care of it. Or in maintaining their own virtual home, we are able to communicate to them that it is very essential that they keep it neat and tidy. We also encourage an active participation of the parents and also keep them updated via email on what their kids are engaging with on the platform,” says Dave.
5 educational websites for kids
Take care of digital eye strain
While Internet has several benefits for children, one major area of concern is the digital eye strain. Experts world over have some tips for parents to take care of children’s eye health.
Eye test at regular intervals: A yearly examination by an eye doctor is a must. Any redness in the eyes should be taken seriously. Also look for symptoms such as squinting and rubbing of the eyes.
Will-lit environment: Eye strain cannot be avoided if a child uses an electronic device in poor lighting. The screen should not have too much of reflections from windows or lights.
Limit use of gadgets: Parents must set a screen time limit. According to doctors, two hours a day should be ideal — the lesser, the better.
The right distance: The distance between the elbow and the first knuckle is considered the ideal. If your children complain of back, neck or head pain, chances are they are not maintaining the right distance and posture.
The 20/20/20 rule: Teach you kid to stop and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds after every 20 minutes. This is considered the best eye exercise.