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From AI to X: Staying safe in the online world space

Staying on top of emerging trends, their impacts, and how their child may use them has never been more important for parents. Discover more about knowing how to be safe online when using these technologies for the betterment of society.

NEWS 24 Apr 2024

There are all kinds of reported benefits for young people using the internet and today’s broad range of technology. They can tap into the internet as a portal to a wider world of rich experiences. They can form stronger connections outside of the classroom through social media. They can even use emerging tools, for example artificial intelligence (AI) to help guide their learning and spark their creativity.

While the online world is filled with opportunities for young people to open their minds, broaden their knowledge and boost their wellbeing, staying safe online is just as essential as it has ever been. When used incorrectly, digital technologies can still potentially lead to negative impacts on the wellbeing of young people.

In staying on top of emerging online trends, recognising their positive impacts and having honest, open conversations about potentially unsafe behaviours, parents can support their children to continue to engage with the digital world safely, so they can keep enjoying the benefits.

Knowing what’s new

You only need to consider the discussions around AI — and how it is becoming increasingly used in everyday life — to know that technology and the internet are continuing to evolve at pace. As it changes, more research is being done to look closer at how these digital innovations influence the wellbeing of all people, including children. Knowing which trends are emerging is the first step to knowing how to provide the right safety measures when children are using them.

“Digital technology is ever evolving and so is the research relating to its effects on the wellbeing of young people. On its own, digital technology may not be helpful or harmful. It is the way these tools are used, for how long, whether they are age appropriate and how they are governed which affects wellbeing”
Neringa Smith, Director of Counselling Service

AI is just one example of how, when used safely and with positive intent, young people can benefit from its capabilities. At Haileybury, students are exploring how AI can be harnessed to help generate practice exam questions, or even develop ideas and inventions that support people in need. These kinds of activities can lead to increased confidence in the classroom, increased creativity and curiosity and a stronger sense of purpose and community, all while using a digital technology that is the subject of plenty of debate — and for good reason.

Knowing how to stay safe

The challenge of keeping young people safe is as pressing as it has ever been. However, there are plenty of proactive steps being taken by schools that parents can also get on board with to support their children when they are online (besides knowing the latest trends and technologies).

One such approach is the REACT model, which was developed by Dr Tom Harrison from the University of Birmingham in the UK to help schools and parents build cyber-wisdom. The model spells out the following:

R for ground rules – set rules about when children can access the internet, how long for and for what purpose.

E for exemplar – model the kind of online behaviour and habits you want your child to follow.

A for advisor – be a partner and coach in your child’s online learning experience.

C for character – talk about testing times that happen online, how that makes them feel and what they feel the best plan of action is.

T for thrive if you can encourage all the above, your child will have cyber-wisdom and thrive in the digital world.

REACT is just one approach parents can take. As their child develops and technology evolves, so too should the discussions families are having around staying safe online — as well as the level of supervision and visibility they have over their online usage.

“For younger children, parents should take an active role in what is allowed to be accessed online and ensure safety measures are put in place which only allow access to age-appropriate material,” says Neringa. “Active monitoring and showing interest in children’s digital use can provide opportunities for discussion.”

Knowing when it is time for time off

We are all online more than we have ever been, with today’s children being digital natives who can readily access digital media and technology throughout their day. While this brings a number of reported benefits, such as access to online wellbeing services and increased connectivity, there are still the potential risks to safety and other negative impacts to their wellbeing.

Which is a why a digital detox is never a bad idea, especially in times outside of the classroom or everyday life where children are not relying on technology.

“Allowing time to digitally detox can contribute to improved sleep, exercise and face-to-face social interactions, along with time to explore other interests, be creative and engage with the natural world,” says Neringa. “It may also help with reducing anxiety, particularly in relation to social comparison.”

Ultimately, how we stay safe online and use technology in ways that support wellbeing will continue to change as the technologies themselves do. In keeping informed with new and emerging trends, as well as how to support children to stay safe and disconnect from the digital world, our children can keep embracing all that is great about the digital age.

As Neringa says, “It is a privilege to be able to use devices and be online, not a right; so digital use comes with responsibilities. Discuss these boundaries, rules and expectations with your child in an age-appropriate way.”