Internet can harm but can also be a child’s best tool for learning


I picked up a really important piece of advice when I became a parent. Keep the computer your children use, in a central place in the home, where everyone can see what they are accessing. This encourages children to be open and get used to parents seeing everything they do online. It becomes natural and they happily accept that you are interested in what they do and want to talk about it from time to time.

I asked my 10 year old daughter Louise what she thought about this and her reply was, “ It’s a good idea because it makes me feel safe because then my parents always know what I’m doing.”

Me, in Mum mode,  “Do you mind me knowing what you are doing?”

Louise, “No I don’t mind, if I do I turn the computer round so you can’t see what I’m doing. Err… like creating lots of Moshi Monster accounts.” (Thanks for that tip Lou, which explains the bombardment of Moshi Monster emails to my email account.)

It’s when they or we are ‘secretive’ that problems can occur. So I wholeheartedly agree with Sugata Mitra’s view that when children access the internet on large, publicly visible screens in safe, public surroundings (in other words your living room, or a classroom) the net can be their most beneficial friend. The internet enables children to talk to people anywhere in the world so if such interactions are in a safe, public space with larger screens and clear audio the effects can be dramatic.

Sugata is professor of educational technology at Newcastle University and the winner of the $1M TED Prize 2013.

He has evidence from all over the world that groups of children can learn almost anything by themselves, using the internet. Children who access the internet from such safe, self-organised learning environments gain immensely over those who don’t. They learn to read sooner and better, they gain in self-confidence and they retain what they have researched for much longer that that gained through traditional rote learning.

I love it when Sugata writes that “there is a myth that computers make children more isolated and anti-social. Computers don’t do anything of the sort. We, the adults do, by giving children access to the internet alone in their rooms with tiny devices. We ask for trouble and we get it. So put your computer in the living room, get a big high definition monitor (if you can afford one) that everyone can look at, tell children they can do what they like on it…goodbye privacy, goodbye danger.”

Something to think about and if you can, act on.

Bye for now


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