How to manage your elementary schooler's digital milestones

Emma McGowan 11 Aug 2022

As the internet becomes an inseparable part of childhood for most, there’s no better time than back-to-school to talk about internet safety and privacy.

The internet is a vital part of kids’ lives today. They see grown-ups and older kids going online with all kinds of devices and they want to be a part of that world, too. Whether it’s playing games or attending school or FaceTiming Grandma, kids are online almost as much as we are.

But just like with the in-person world, your kids need your guidance on how to navigate and behave in the digital world. And we know that sometimes it seems like they know more than you do, but you know more about being a person in the world – and while your kid might be expert on TikTok, you’re the expert on your kid. 

So start the conversations early. Ask leading questions. Get interested in their digital lives. Teaching them about privacy, computer security, and social media safety starting at an early age helps create a kid who’s savvy and uses their own critical thinking to make good choices.

Having conversations about online safety will never be a one-and-done situation. Like other tricky conversations, parents should be prepared to have conversations about online safety over and over again.

As the internet becomes an inseparable part of childhood for most, there’s no better time than back-to-school to talk about internet safety and privacy. 

Set the tone

Make sure you manage your YouTube privacy settings and monitor the media your younger children are consuming. Think channels like Blippi and Daniel Tiger for the five and under set, not Unspeakable. Make sure the media they are consuming is age appropriate while communicating with your child about what that means. 

Create a digital schedule

Pre-pandemic, there was a lot of chatter amongst parents about “screen time.” But now that even school often involves screens, it’s kind of an outdated notion. Instead, work with your kids to create a “digital schedule” that includes clear agreements about when they can and will access certain devices and certain types of media.

For elementary schoolers, this might look like finding the “right” balance and try setting a timer. Kids love to participate in setting timers and are used to them being used by teachers in the classroom, so work one into your at-home digital routine as well.

Further reading: How to ease your kids into a hybrid play model

Reinforce parental controls 

Double check to make sure all of your parental controls are activated across all devices and social media sites. And then? Have an age-appropriate conversation with your kid about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Think of it this way: You have conversations with your kid about why it’s important to go to school every day. But you don’t just leave it there! You also confirm with their school they’re showing up and staying through the day. Plus, if they aren’t going, there’s a system in place for the school to let you know. 

Digital boundaries in the form of parental controls do a similar thing for your kids online: Ensure your kids are sticking to the boundaries you’ve both agreed on. Because while you can’t be with them 24/7 online or in person, you can use the tools at your disposal to keep them safe. 

Talk about inappropriate content 

The internet is all ages and sometimes things that aren’t appropriate for little ones slip through the parental controls and other protections you’ve set around your kid’s online access. Whether it’s adult content, violence in video games, or grooming by strangers, the reality is that there are dangers online for elementary school-aged kids.

While you don’t want to terrify your child (or yourself), of course, talk to them about these online dangers the same way you talk to them about in-person dangers. Remind them that they can come to you with anything, even if someone online says that they’ll get in trouble. 

Talk about how we don’t share our private parts in public (and the internet counts as “in public”) and we come to Mom or Dad if someone else shows us their private parts. Explain that, just like with movies, there’s violence in games that’s okay for grown-ups but not for kids. And keep that line of communication open so that your child knows you’re a safe space to talk about anything upsetting they find online.

Invest in cybersecurity

Let’s get real: Kids click on stuff. And we all know that clicking on stuff is one of the best ways to get a virus onto your devices. 

So if you share your laptop, tablet, or phone with your kids, it’s essential that you keep your system updated with the latest upgrades and security software, like Avast One

Avast One is your family’s all-in-one online guardian, ready to protect you with award-winning antivirus, plus powerful privacy and performance tools like VPN and device cleanup. While device sharing, it’s critical to protect your personal and financial details from any imminent cyber threats or data sharing accidental leaks. 

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