Vicki Shotbolt, CEO of Parent Zone and executive board member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, explains how to teach your children to navigate the internet safely
What is digital resilience?
When we talk about a child’s ‘digital resilience’, we’re really talking about their ability to cope with setbacks and bounce back when they experience something difficult online.
A resilient child is able to successfully navigate the online world’s potential risks. They have developed their own sense of right and wrong, and have the skills to make positive decisions about their life online.
Thankfully, digital resilience is easier to acquire than you may think.
Resilient children are less likely to experience harm
How can you ensure your child has the resilience to enjoy life online and avoid the pitfalls? A couple of years ago, Parent Zone worked with the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) to find out if digital resilience really mattered, and how children were able to acquire it.
First, we found that resilience was very important: resilient children are more likely to enjoy the benefits of the internet and less likely to experience harm. And second, we found that digital resilience is built by ‘good-enough parenting’ and by children having digital skills and a positive attitude to technology.
What is ‘good-enough parenting’?
Put simply, a ‘good-enough’ parent is consistent and responsive. They always aim to do their best for their child, while recognising that perfect parenting isn’t realistic or achievable.
In terms of digital resilience, a ‘good-enough parent’ equips their child with the skills needed to be able to take care of themselves. It’s about adapting what you already do to keep them safe and flourishing offline, so that the same approach works in the online world.
The benefit of boundaries
Setting boundaries is important in the digital world. Children need them because they feel more secure if they know what they can and can’t do.
We’ve all had trouble putting down our devices, so it’s easy to see why children need us to tell them when it’s been too long or too much.
Of course, you’ll relax some rules as your child grows older, and there will be days when you bend them a little – but rules are critical in a digital world because managing technology use can be tough.
Finally, digital resilience is about letting children explore, knowing that you’ve taught them how to navigate the online world and that they can come to you if they have a problem.
When they were younger, you taught your child how to cross roads safely – you didn’t wait until someone made the roads 100 per cent safe, because that was never going to happen. Likewise, the internet will never be completely risk-free.
But the answer isn’t to keep your child away from it. If you rely on filters and parental controls, there is a chance you may make your child less safe. The first time they go online outside of your walled environment, they could find they don’t have the skills to navigate potential problems and to make positive decisions. So it’s important to teach them how to be safe online, then have the confidence to let them go it alone.