Online preschool in Malaysia is becoming a norm. And it seems we can finally breathe a sigh of relief now that Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective.
Which means we can all get the vaccine by 2021, right?
Unfortunately, the vaccine hasn’t been tested on pregnant women or children below the age of 12 yet. Trials in those groups, according to Pfizer, are ongoing or in progress.
In light of this, our Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, has also confirmed that children below 12 in Malaysia will not receive a Covid-19 vaccine in year 2021.
Preschools might remain closed and children are to stay home for an indefinite period of time. This leads to more online classes and teachers delivering lessons behind a computer screen.
With teachers giving online instructions, your child will be spending more time on the internet, browsing from one web page to another.
As like any public place, there are dangers online that you need to be aware of. How do you keep your child safe in the world of online preschool as they surf the internet?
The Dangers of The Internet
There’s no denying that the internet is a great place to hang out.
Many of us adults are almost heavily dependent on the internet: we do everything online these days and we can do them anywhere thanks to mobile devices.
But sadly, the internet is also a dangerous place – particularly for children.
This is because when the internet was first invented, online environments were designed by adults, for adults.
Yet today, according to, the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) 2017 report titled Children In A Digital World:
Children under eighteen represent a third of all internet users globally.
Hence, your children are not only exposed to online opportunities but online risks as well. According to Sonia Livingstone’s Children and the Internet, these opportunities and risks include:
- Access to global information
- Educational resources
- Social networking among friends
- Entertainment, games and fun user-generated content creation
- Civic or political participation
- Privacy for identity expression
- Community involvement/activism
- Technological expertise and literacy
- Career advancement/employment
- Personal/health/sexual advice
- Specialist groups/fan forums
- Shared experiences with distant others
- Illegal content
- Paedophiles, grooming, strangers
- Extreme or sexual violence
- Other harmful offensive content
- Racist/hate material and activities
- Advertising and stealth marketing
- Biased or misinformation
- Abuse of personal information
- Gambling, phishing, financial scams
- Self-harm (suicide, anorexia)
- Invasions/abuse of privacy
The online world is a public place, a medium where both good and bad things happen depending on how you use it. And like any public area, you are compelled to protect your child from all dangers on the internet.
How Can I Protect My Child Online?
Children are often unafraid to meet people and make new friends.
Which means oftentimes, children do not have enough caution or awareness needed to protect themselves from online threats.
This is even more dangerous online as the ability to mask your identity online and the sense of distance it creates builds an illusion of safety. As warned by internet safety and security experts in this Guardian article:
Just because you feel protected by the apparent distance a screen gives you and the person you’re talking to, you must remember that online is still the real world.
But according to a joint report published by Nominet and NPC, children without consistent, informed and confident parents are more vulnerable to online risks, especially if those children are also experiencing vulnerabilities in other areas of their life.
So by following some of the ways we’ve listed below, your supervision will keep your child safe during their time online:
1 – Discuss Healthy Media Use with Your Child
It’s easy to tell them that they only has one hour of screen time.
What’s harder is getting them to agree with you.
In their perspective, their experience of fun online games and educational classes doesn’t seem dangerous, but rather beneficial. They have yet to develop the foresight needed to understand the dangers online and the health complications spent on being addicted to screens.
So why should they stop playing?
Get them on the same page with you by discussing and modelling healthy media use with your child.
By setting clear guidelines and encouraging them to have open communication with you, your child will understand your perspective better and feel more independent as well as smart to navigate more safely online.
2 – Checking Up on Their Profiles and Feed
If your child has a social media account or two, check their profiles and posts periodically. Take a quick look at their feed or go to History to review web pages they’ve visited.
Of course, you need to inform your child about this first and get their approval before doing so. You need to respect their privacy.
By looking at your child’s viewing history, you can get feedback on what your child is searching for and if your current supervisions tactics are working. If there is something unfamiliar you’re unsure about, research the topic before you make a judgement.
You can evaluate how safe the content is with Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is a website that rates movies, TV shows and books so parents like us can feel good about the entertainment choices we make for our kids.
You can also co-view the web pages and media they are viewing during their screen time. Not only will you be able to check up on their internet use, but it also provides quality bonding time between you and your child and helps you learn more about your child.
This is also a good opportunity to enhance their learning by discussing what you have both found online.
3 – Don’t Allow Devices in Their Rooms
Whether they are using a computer, iPad or mobile device, place their devices and their chargers within a common area of the house.
This will make it easier for you to observe your child while using the internet.
The presence of other people within the room will also discipline your child. With more people around, kids will less likely try to extend their screen time and visit sites they are explicitly told they are not allowed to surf.
4 – Use Technology to Protect Them
As we have mentioned before, there are online opportunities that come along with online risks. And like the online world, technology is a medium in which good or bad can happen depending on how it’s used.
So naturally, technology can be used to keep children safe on the internet to combat inappropriate content, hackers, child predators, etc.
There are a number of privacy settings and parental controls that parents can look into.
On Google, you can set up a child account for children under 13 years old. This will enable you to use the family link feature which can manage your child’s google activities, filter out unwanted results and create an automatic time-limit for screen time.
There are also several good apps for monitoring and limiting screen usages, such as Youtube Kids and MamaBear (for social media). You can also invest in Qustodio and Kaspersky Safe Kids for more features.
UNICEF has made a list of other practical recommendations for how parents, carers and societies at large can protect vulnerable children:
- Provide all children with affordable access to high-quality online resources.
- Teach digital literacy to keep children informed, engaged and safe online
- Leverage the power of the private sector to advance ethical standards and practises that protect and benefit children online
- Put children at the centre of digital policy
With the Q-dees Fun Learning Hub, lessons, videos and content are all found within a single platform. This makes it easier to protect children, as there is no need for them to browse to other websites when learning online.
What Does the Digital Future for the COVID-19 Generation Look Like?
Discussion of child online safety has been going on long before the pandemic struck.
According to an interesting article from the World Economic Forum, it discussed digital surveillance and other potential side-effects of technology for children:
This is about human rights in the digital age – we set the norm for the next generation and I think we’re neglecting our duties
The article goes on to raise concerns on policy-makers and ICT industry leaders neglecting to make an effort in more ethical and human-centred technology.
However, at that time, online safety wasn’t as alarming compared to other global issues. So while it is important, the world is still in the process of setting clear, enforced regulations on child online safety.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic transforming the basic education of the younger generation, we now clearly see the holes in our current policies on child online protection and how it can significantly affect their safety.
As expressed by the authors of this opinion paper from ScienceDirect:
We maintain that the digital divide is not merely about access or use of digital technology, but about being able to integrate digital technology into meaningful social practices and to gain benefits of it. The young generation needs to understand and be able to make informed decisions on how to utilize digital technologies in everyday life in meaningful ways.
The paper also reveals a variety of digital divides that emerged during the pandemic forced us to take an extraordinary digital leap in the basic education of our children.
Significant adjustments are needed, not only from children and their teachers but also from families, school administration and the entire society.
In a flash, their education was transformed from traditional classroom practice to a remote, digitalized one. Suddenly, an entire generation of children had to start managing and mastering with digital tools to participate in their compulsory basic education.
With this in mind, we are now progressing to achieve more active changes in the way we ensure safety in online education and the internet. The paper suggests that teachers and schools should take the lead in this dramatic digital transformation.
Parents should work hand in hand with the teachers and schools as they are also leaders of the digital transformation of education.
Even before the pandemic and the lockdowns, children are already accessing online content and engaging in the online world more than ever before. Establishing screen-time limits can only go so far.
Alternatively, what parents can do is pay attention to the content and the context in which the children are using it instead of focusing on how much time a child spends on digital media.
But even more to the point, educate ourselves on ways to be safe online so that we can give the best advice to our children.
Lead by example and model the kind of positive online behaviour we would like our children to follow. And, yes, this includes limiting our own screen time.
Find a Q-dees preschool near you in Malaysia and ask about how we ensure the safety of your child with our online preschool classes.
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Livingstone, S. (2009). Children and the Internet. Polity. D’Antona, R., Kevorkian, M., & Russom, A. (2010). Sexting, texting, cyberbullying and keeping youth safe online. Journal of Social Sciences, 6(4), 523-528.
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