We live in a fully digital age and our kids are native users whether we like it or not. That's why I cheered when I read that Google is planning to offer up a suite of services geared specifically for kids. The services will likely include email and YouTube accounts for children under the age of 13 and will come with parental controls.
Of course, the proposal is a move to generate revenue and page views, I'm not so doe-eyed that I don't understand the cynical rationale behind it. However, with kids ages 9 and 6 who are part of this brave new world, I welcome the chance to teach them how to be good online citizens while they are young.
Navigating life on the web is daunting even for adults, and that's exactly why it's important to start educating your kids early about how, when and what to communicate online. In the past, we've waited until our children reached this somehow magical age of 13, and it's reaped a lot of pain, especially in the form of online bullying and teen sexting.
Kids that age have brains that operate differently — science tells us that adolescents have a hard time controlling their impulses and making good decisions. So hey, let's definitely offer them the keys to the digital kingdom at exactly the same time their bodies are flooded with hormones — that makes total sense!
I am happy to have the opportunity to show my kids the online ropes early on. Just like teaching them manners, how to ride a bike and how to tie their shoes, teaching them about the digital world should be part of their early education. Heck, my kids have been using laptops and smart devices since they were in preschool. They know all about technology.
And, as they've grown, they've graduated to other online activities including sending texts and email to far-flung family members and watching YouTube Minecraft tutorials so I don't have to spend my Saturday afternoon researching how to build a red stone castle, whatever that is.
The facts are right in front of us — kids are online whether they are "old enough" to have an email account or not. At least now, Google is proposing a way to give them access with some parental controls while they are still young enough to be imprinted with our personal family values. That will make the internet a much nicer place.
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