Internet and kids
Today’s children are connected to the world in many ways. Children use computers, tablets and mobile phones to play games, browse on the web and access social media sites. The challenge is to help your child enjoy the benefits of the internet while avoiding the risks.
What are the benefits of the internet for children?
The internet is a powerful tool for learning. Going online involves thinking and problem solving and gives a young child a sense of confidence and success.
For older children, writing emails and reading text on the internet builds literacy skills and enables them to stay in touch with family and friends.
What are the risks of the internet for children?
However, there are risks as well. Young children do not understand that information on the internet is not always true or helpful. They might see things that are upsetting or disgust them, such as pornography or cruelty to animals.
They may come into contact with people they do not know, or adults posing as children. Young children may not understand that they shouldn’t give private information to strangers.
Children might come into conflict with other children when they are playing online games, or they may accidentally make purchases.
How to make the internet safe for your child
You can help your child use the internet safely by learning how to make internet access safe, monitoring their use and teaching them about the risks involved.
Child development experts offer the following practical advice to minimise internet dangers:
- Talk to you child about how to stay safe on the internet as soon as they become involved with the online world. Keep the conversation going as they grow into sophisticated users.
- Monitor how often your child goes online and set limits together on the amount of screen time allowed.
- Keep computers in the family room so you can see which websites children are visiting and for how long. Don’t allow children to use mobile phones or other devices in private rooms.
- Ask your child to let you know if a stranger contacts them or if they feel bullied or frightened.
- Choose a family-friendly internet service provider, use safe search engines and apply web browsing tools to filter out harmful or distressing material.
- Become familiar with appropriate sites for children and show your child sites that are fun, interesting and educational.
How much time on the internet is too much?
Health and education authorities have 2 main concerns about extended and frequent use of internet devices.
They worry that spending time sitting, looking at a screen, will affect a child’s health and fitness, and may take them away from the pleasure of discovery in the natural world.
They also worry that by playing online alone, a child misses out on collaborating and learning social skills with peers.
The Department of Health recommends that:
- children younger than 2 should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media.
- children aged 2 to 5 should spend less than 1 hour a day watching a screen.
- children aged 5 to 17 years should spend less than 2 hours a day watching a screen.
Encourage your child to engage in a wide range of activities that keep them active to build physical and social skills, and activities that stimulate their thinking and creativity.
Parents can find out more information on online safety and security:
- The eSafety Commissioner
- Staying safe online — Australian Communications and Media Authority
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: March 2021