Instead of putting filters or a net nanny on our internet we chose to help our children learn to guide the web to find what they need in their own way. It takes a little time investment to get started, which is well worth the independence and joy that comes from this life long skill. Filters are meant to keep young children from seeing things that may bother them, that is understandable. Filters become problematic when they filter out the things that you do want to see.
Step 1: Sit down beside your kid(s).
Be connected and engaged. When my children were young I would sit nearby and be present and available. Sometimes enjoying watching their work and other times doing my own work. I would be quiet and contained.
Step 2: Give you child the mouse or allow them to be in charge of the touchscreen.
Put the power in their hands. Let them do the searches while you sit there and support. If needed you can show them how to use a mouse, there are some really fun games to practice mouse skills. My kids started around 15 months old. Touchscreens can make navigating feel more natural for younger kids; if your child has a hard time grasping the function of a mouse or trackpad, see if you can find a tablet or other device they can more directly point and click on.
Step 3: Observe.
When they come to a point of a decision needing to be made (such as the end of a video) observe. Quietly. If they don’t ask for your help they may not need it. If they seem frustrated let them be frustrated for a short period of time before jumping in. Sometimes we humans are not patient. Frustration is not giving up, it is part of getting through. They are strong, let them know they can weather uncomfortable feelings. They will ask when you are needed.
Step 4: Listen to them.
Hear their words and reflect them back. Find what they truly need without assumption.
Step 5: Discuss
Ask questions only if you need to about how they are coming to their decision. They probably already have excellent critical thinking skills but it is ok if they don’t. Making mistakes is part of learning and a awesome thing. Allow them to lead the discussion.
Step 6: Problem Solve
Sometimes problems come up. You’ve listened. You’ve observed. You’ve had discussions. And now your child has come upon an issue that are unable to resolve quickly or easily. Ask open ended questions to figure out what ideas and options they have for solutions. Most of the time they will come up with great ideas without help. Some things may require more technical or life experience skills and you are there to help with those.
A common problem is needing spelling help. I give that freely and with love. However I am not always there or immediately available. There are ways they can do this on their own. Google voice to text is great. My kids loved to play with this to dictate stories and say silly things to see how to spell them. We also have a bulletin board for each person in our families. We put unfamiliar research word on small cards. They are easy to see and allow more independence.
Step 7: Trust
Kids generally know what they are looking for and are not easily fooled. With these skills they can safely and effectively navigate and explore the web with little input from you with lots of connection. Trust that in time you child will learn to explore the web without you assistance. Trust that there is very little that could actually harm them. Scary images can be talked through. Information that is mature usually flies over their heads. These mistakes made with you being present are excellent opportunities for growth and connection.