Screen time! A parents’ nightmare is now proving to be their saviour. Everything from entertainment to activities and even education has moved online. The internet is providing a virtual setting for kids where they can carry out most of their regular activities as close to normal as possible during the lockdown. But just like in regular life, parents still have to maintain a balance in the way their children use the internet.
Kids should not only go online for school and to watch cartoons, but the internet should also have resources to encourage physical activity – a virtual playground. And most importantly it needs to be safe. In a few short weeks, companies, education institutes, and individuals adapted their content to give children a more enriching online experience, let’s take a closer look at what’s been done and where things can improve.
Online education platforms, learning resources, online libraries, and more have all upped their game since the lockdown. It’s not just parents looking for free resources that has prompted this revolution but also schools needing to use reliable platforms. Schools and colleges have been actively purchasing software that could enable them to carry out online classes. Everything from the most user-friendly platforms to the security protocols has been scrutinised by educational institutions before buying and using a new online education software.
Among the free resources, several libraries and publications have opened their entire online collection to the public. Parents can find a host of children’s books, school textbooks, and other reading material for free online. Free courses and fun YouTube videos on cooking, art and craft, gardening, and lots more are also available. There is certainly no dearth of engaging content for kids to access in the present scenario.
Keeping kids active
Along with all the educational and entertainment content for kids, they also need ways to stay active. Many online resources for home workouts have been designed with adults and especially home-makers in mind. But now is a good time to start designing workouts for kids. A few things to keep in mind when wanting to engage kids is that they have much shorter attention spans, a lot more energy, and will get bored easily. To grab and hold a child’s attention it helps to have videos that are lively and interesting. Bright colours, catchy music, and a presenter who exudes energy is a good formula.
Activities that can be done with kids can include yoga, aerobics, and dance. Other activities that require some basic equipment like a hula-hoop or a ball can also be included. It is best to avoid very fancy equipment like ribbon flags and hoverboards because not everyone might have these at home. These videos are best made by trainers who are not only qualified in their respective fields but also have experience in working with kids. For example, a dance instructor who specialises in dance classes for kids is the perfect candidate to make an online video for the same. While they might need a bit of tech support and maybe even help in marketing their online resources, they are the best people to generate the content.
Keeping kids safe
Just like in a real playground, kids need to be supervised in a virtual playground as well. Cyberbullies and worse still, paedophiles are notorious for logging in to sites and sessions that are designed for kids. Things might start as inconspicuously as initiating a conversation with someone in the comments section which can then progress to exchanging contact details, which could lead to much bigger and even illegal issues. While parents need to be vigilant and supervise their child’s online activity, it is appreciated when and necessary for the host to provide adequate security.
The organiser of an event or class needs to choose a platform that permits access to only registered users. Even if the event is free, getting participants to register beforehand with a verification process can be a deterrent to unscrupulous activity. No stalker wants to have to reveal contact details like an email address and phone number that can be traced back to them. Most of the time, online predators are looking for easy prey and steer clear of sites with good security. It is also a good idea for organisers to inform parents of certain safety precautions and to ask them to educate their children to look out for suspicious behaviour.
The world has changed because of COVID-19 pandemic. Whether we like it or not, our kids will be spending more time online. When online resource providers and parents cooperate to ensure that children’s online experience is not just engaging but also safe, the kids can benefit so much more. While we are busy building playgrounds online, let’s also do everything we can to keep our kids secure and protected.