Chances are your child is already familiar with your smartphone or tablet. So when should you begin the discussion about email, the internet and social media? Right away! If they’re old enough to use these devices on their own they are old enough to start learning about the ways they can be used and, most importantly, how to use them safely. After all, they won’t be watching Peppa Pig on Youtube forever…
By starting this discussion early you are able to control the pace at which they learn and what it is they are looking at as they learn.
Step 1. Take a photo of something they have made. Whether it’s a drawing, a cake, or simply a mess in a room, take a photo of it on your phone. Show your child – they will be interested because it is something they have made.
Step 2. Email the photo to someone they know. It could be yourself, your partner or a friend. It helps if they are able to see the email arrive. Let them open the email and the photo within. They will be interested because they can see it disappear and reappear.
Step 3. Take the photo from the received email and post it on Facebook or Twitter (other social networks are available). Tag people they know to the photos and explain how they will see them. If possible ask the people they know to comment on the photo so your child can see them interacting with what was posted. They will be interested because they feel they are sharing their photo.
In the few minutes it probably took to complete those steps, you have opened up a multitude of conversation topics about how people use email, the internet and social media to connect with one another. Discuss the reasons why people use email, how it compares to writing letters, what people can send to each other (ie files as well as messages). Discuss what people do with social media, how they connect existing friends and make new ones. How to react when they see things or people say things that they don’t like. Whatever it is, start the conversation. Take it slow or leap right in. You know what pace your child. The important thing is that you have started conversations about how to use technology safely and responsibly, conversations that could (given the evolution of how we use technology) last a lifetime.