By Kayelene Kerr
September 2016
This article was written for the Medical Forum of WA

Lack of knowledge and understanding about what children and young people are doing online is resulting in parents and carers feeling ill-equipped to deal with the vast array of applications their children use, games they play and websites they visit.

The internet is not new, nor are the predators that lurk in cyber space. What is new
and has delivered this issue into homes across Australia is the accessibility to the internet made possible by portable devices. The internet is the pen and paper of the 21st century and children are spending increasing amounts of time online. As such parents today need to understand how the technology their children use works.

There appears to be a disconnect between the way parents ‘parent’ in the real world
and the online world. Children are being given access to devices before they are taught personal safety and strategies to keep themselves safe.

We don’t allow our young children to cross the road or swim without instruction and supervision, yet we allow them into an environment in which they can come into contact with billions of people they don’t know and their potential mistakes are permanent and can have long-lasting implications.

The Protective Behaviours program that has been taught in Western Australia for over 20 years needs to be extended to include the online world.

Before a child has access to the Internet parents need to educate their children about public and private information, behaviour and body parts. Parents need to be their child’s training wheels while they are learning to be a good digital citizen. Assisting children to think critically and problem solve different situations they may encounter, and establishing a network of trusted adults they can speak to if they feel unsafe or see something that makes them feel uncomfortable are essential.