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10 ways to use the internet positively

teenager on a laptop

Anatoly Tiplyashin/stock.adobe.com

There is often negativity surrounding how young people use the internet and whether they know enough about the risks. 

Helping your child to be resilient is really important, but these conversations don’t need to overshadow the ones about the opportunities. It’s really useful to discuss the positives – all the ways in which the internet can benefit them. 

Here’s our guide for talking to your child about how they can get the most out of their time online.

Building friendships

Digital communication is now a fact of life for many young people. Gaming, social media and video chatting are all powerful tools for building and maintaining friendships – and they can be particularly useful for children who struggle with face-to-face social interactions. If that's the case for your child, try to encourage them to establish friendships virtually instead, with your support and guidance. 

Keeping in touch

Lockdown reminded us all how important it is to feel close to friends and family – and technology gave us the way to do that. Your child may well have spent time doing video calls or online quizzes with distant family members over the past few months, and there’s no reason why that needs to stop now. These can all be really nice ways to catch up when you’re not able to meet in person. 

Making a difference 

Your child will learn about social issues at school – from climate change to racial discrimination. But there will be some issues that they want to know more about. Talk to them about the causes they care about and encourage them to do their own research online. They could look into volunteering opportunities or discover other ways to get involved. They may also like to see what they can do to help out their local community.

Exploring the world (virtually)

Your child may be interested in how much they can see and learn about art, science and other cultures without the need to leave the house. Many of the most famous museums and galleries in the world offer free virtual tours, with in-depth explanations about paintings and sculptures that your child may otherwise not have seen. There are also 360-degree virtual tours of some of the most impressive heritage sites in the world such as Machu Picchu in Peru or the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil.   

Choosing a job or career

It can be handy to read what people have to say about their career choices first hand in blogs and forums, and even discover careers that your child (or you both) didn’t know existed. Whether they are already set on their future career choice, or still don’t have a clue, some extensive research online can be really helpful. Whatever they end up doing, they will also need good digital skills and a solid understanding of how to use the internet to carry out research. At some point they will need to be able to fill out forms online to apply for courses and jobs. You could start out by getting them to help you with some of your own admin tasks to give them some experience. 

Following the news

Young people are far more likely to get their news through online sites and social media posts than they are from watching television. Help your child to seek out trusted online news sources to encourage them to keep up with world events in a way they still find interesting and easily accessible. They may already know to watch out for fake news and rumours – as these spread quickly online – but they may not know how to tell the difference between what is true and what isn’t. Talk to them about some ways they can think critically to spot fake news.

Learning new skills 

Your child probably already uses the internet for homework assignments and school projects, but there are also great opportunities online to learn new and exciting skills. There are loads of short video tutorials to help them learn everything from the latest impressive football skills to how to start their own vlog (video blog). Lots of people like to do a quick search for tutorial videos when trying something out at home for the first time – some popular searches include how to make sourdough bread or bake banana loaf. 

Getting published 

The internet can be an excellent outlet for your child to express their creative side. There are loads of opportunities for them to share their talents and skills with others. They might enjoy setting up their own blog or vlog about their favourite books, films, gadgets, sports events or their opinion on a cause important to them. Budding photographers can upload their best shots for others to see (and even purchase). 

Buying or selling things online 

The internet has made buying and selling second-hand items a popular pastime – or even a career. Eco-conscious young people might prefer the opportunity to sell unwanted items rather than throwing them away and appreciate buying second-hand books over new ones. You may not feel comfortable letting them do this unsupervised, but they could get involved in the process – helping you take the photos and write the item descriptions – or you could browse online together.  

Finding time to relax 

There are plenty of ways to use the internet for some down time. Your child may like to watch their favourite film, listen to music, watch a meditation video, watch funny video clips or follow the latest social posts from their favourite actors and musicians. Ask them to share their interests with you – it could be something that the whole family could get involved in as a bit of light entertainment at the end of a busy day. 

Action

The new RSE/RSHE curriculum

The new RSE (for primary) and RSHE (secondary) curriculum is compulsory from September 2020. However due to the impact of COVID-19, schools have been given additional time to implement it if they need it. They must begin teaching by April 2021. Parent Info will be running a series of articles over the next year exploring the ‘Online Relationships’ aspect of the new primary curriculum and the ‘Online and media’ aspect of the secondary curriculum. This article will help parents of secondary-aged children understand how they can support the learning from the statutory curriculum, specifically that children ‘Know their rights, responsibilities and opportunities online, including that the same expectations of behaviour apply in all contexts, including online.’

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