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If you have a child (or children) who is 6 years old or younger, you may be forgiven for thinking you don’t yet have to be concerned about how to keep them safe online. After all, what harm can a 6-yr-old do online?

Well let me tell you, you’d be surprised at just how tech-savvy a child this age can be. In this article we’ll discuss why it’s not just a good idea but in fact vital to learn how to keep your children safe online before they turn 6 years old.


How Tech-Savvy Are 6-Yr-Olds?

Let me just acknowledge that of course all children are different. Children have their own personalities. Some are naturally sporty, others prefer indoor activities. Some are more inclined to spend more time using screens than others, and screen time will have a different effect on different children. As such, the research on this topic can only be a guideline as to where your child may be at as far as their mental and emotional development goes.

According to the Young and Social Online research conducted by the Office of Children’s E-Safety Commissioner, 6 year olds today are as digitally advanced as 10 year olds were just 3 years ago. Somehow I don’t think that’s because 10 year olds have gone backwards! Children are spending more time online and visiting more sites at a younger age than ever, and this trend is only likely to continue.

Unfortunately most children are more tech-savvy than their parents from a young age, and that means they can usually get around any parental controls we may put in place for them at a young age if they want to.


What Do 6 Year Olds Do Online?

About 50% of children browse the internet searching for information there. Restrictions can be put in place which can help reduce the chances of them finding inappropriate content there, but most are not 100% effective. There are plenty of sites that look innocent by name, but are far from it once you see their content.

An innocent click is just a click a way from some highly inappropriate content in many cases. And how easy is it to enter the wrong url, ie maybe enter a site ending with .com instead of .org, and find some very different content than what you were looking for?


Are Your Children Alone Online?

There is so much advice out there to only allow your children to use the internet in a public space in the home, yet according to the research 44% of children use the internet alone in their bedroom.

Without knowing that you might see what they’re looking at or doing at any time, your children may well have the courage to visit sites and do things they otherwise wouldn’t do if they’re in private.

Similarly, the research claimed that 41% of children use the internet without supervision. This is like letting your young children catch public transport and walk around the streets in a big city on their own! You would never allow that, yet there are potentially even more dangers for your children in being online alone.


YouTube Is Huge

What are 6-yr-olds doing onlineYouTube is the second most popular site in the world; the only site that beats it for traffic is Google. Like any site where users create the content, there is a mixture of top quality content and very poor quality content in YouTube. And there’s a lot of it.

Information from Smart Insights shows that YouTube is growing substantially year upon year. According to their research, in 2014 there was approximately 300 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every 60 seconds. In 2015 it increased to 400 hours, and in 2016 it was 500 hours. That’s a lot of content available for anyone, including young children, to view!

YouTube has almost replaced TV for young children. After all, they can pretty much watch whatever they want whenever they want – and they do. About 58% of 6-yr-old children stream YouTube videos, and there’s a very good chance that some of the content they see there is not what you want them to see.

Some children as young as six are even creating and uploading their own videos to YouTube. While a 6 year old may be able to figure out the technology to do this, they’re not aware of the potential consequences of what they share. Sharing too much information online leaves children vulnerable to online predators just waiting to take advantage of them.

The next step from uploading videos to YouTube is live-streaming. This can be even more concerning, as of course once your children say something in a live stream it can’t be taken back – it’s out there for good! And young children simply don’t think before they speak, it’s just not how they’re wired to behave.


Social Media

Social media of course is a minefield in itself, and there’s good reason for the minimum age requirement on most social media platforms to be 13yrs or more. However most children don’t care about those requirements and can easily get around them, and they do.

Anyone using social media is aware that both good things and bad things can happen there. Children need parental guidance in order to be safe on social media from cyber bullying, inappropriate content, privacy issues, predators and more.

A 6-year-old, no matter how intelligent they are, simply doesn’t yet have the emotional intelligence to conduct themselves appropriately on social media. You probably know of some adults who don’t behave well on social media, so how could anyone expect a 6-yr-old to cope there?


What You Can Do To Keep Your 6-Yr-Old Safe Online

With young children being active online, and having the technical ability to use sites they’re not yet emotionally ready to use, there’s a need for parents to take an active role in guiding them to be safe online. But how do you go about doing this?

For more information on how you can keep your children safe online, register for my next live webinar here. If you can’t make it live don’t worry, once you register you’ll receive a recording to watch in your own time.

There’s no cost to attend the webinar other than your time, and what better way to invest your time than in the well-being of your children?

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