Many parents would openly admit that their children have better knowledge of the digital world than they do. In 2015, research from Ofcom found that 39% of 3-4 year olds have used the internet, and by ages 8-11, they spend on average a staggering 11.1 hours a week online. These figures continue to grow daily, often leaving parents feeling like they're in the dark about what their children get up to online.
We tend to forget that the internet was built for adults, but it is children who have inherited it and who will drive it into the future. As a parent, it was frightening to know that my children had the technical know-how to search online from a young age. My fears were confirmed when one of my daughters searched for her favourite nursery rhyme, 'Three Kittens', only to find something entirely inappropriate.
This was a real concern for me and was one of the main reasons why I co-founded Azoomee - I wanted to create a children's app with a social conscience that supports kids in being smart, safe and kind online. With Azoomee, we have a real opportunity to influence how children navigate digital spaces more independently while preparing them for the type of content they will encounter on the internet.
Our children were more than just the inspiration for Azoomee as, by exploring the internet together, we were able to gain valuable insight and feedback into the way they were using it, what was important to them and what they wanted to learn more about. For example, they really enjoy learning to make or do things, so we included a space for tutorials.
The internet is such an intrinsic part of our society that some schools even set homework that has to be completed using online tools, making it very difficult for parents to restrict it at home without causing conflict. Parents aren't realistically able to constantly track what their children are searching for, and monitoring and vetting the entire internet to curate sites and content would, of course, take a huge amount of effort.
So, just like I learnt from my children, perhaps the solution is to encourage your children to teach you by seeking their advice and explanations. Children are naturally inquisitive and tend to be very generous with their time, which can make them excellent teachers. Having grown up with technology from a young age they aren't afraid to spend the time to understand the latest application or computer update.
By accompanying them online you can get to grips with the full scale of their knowledge and be able to help them engage and interact responsibly. As we know all too well, there are many dangers children can encounter such as stumbling across inappropriate content, talking to strangers or sharing something damaging. Together you can face these challenges head on, which can lead to open conversations about their online activities.
Our children are digital natives that we feel a need to nurture and protect, but in learning with and from them about their online lives we are better able to let go as they become independent and active digital citizens.