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Thursday, January 9, 2014

The internet has so much to offer its users but of course it’s also something that poses many dangers to those who use it. Should a four-year old therefore be allowed to use the internet? Encouraging your child to use computers at an early age is a good idea for sure and can do nothing but good for their future career prospects. Allowing them to use the internet however is something that needs to be discussed beforehand and you can get the lowdown on these and lots of related e safety issues on Quibly, a great resource for parents.

Research into the subject reveals that there are many children of this age who are allowed to use the internet. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) helped Microsoft develop age-based guidance for internet use and emphasise the importance of supervision for those aged below the age of ten. Allowing a child that is only four years old to use the internet unsupervised does present many problems.

Getting your child used to using a computer at the age of four is beneficial and it’s good for parents to talk to their child about computers and to make them curious about what they are used for. You must set clear rules about internet use before you sit down with your four-year old and go online. Also make sure that you use a pop-up blocker to make sure nothing that’s offensive suddenly appears out of nowhere.

If you do allow your four-year old to use the internet by themselves, make sure that they do so in a place where you can see them. Also make sure they don’t use the computer for too long.

A survey by babies.co.uk‎ revealed that more than half of parents allowed their babies to play with their phone or tablet device. One in seven of more than 1,000 parents questioned admitted that they let them use the gadgets for four or more hours a day.

The amount of time a child this young spends on a computer has to be restricted. In April 2013 a four-year old girl had to be treated by doctors after she became increasingly “distressed and inconsolable” after having her iPad taken away from her. The child had been using the iPad for a year for up to four hours a day. Dr Richard Graham, who launched the UK’s first technology addiction programme three years ago, said he believed there were many more addicts of her age.

“They see their parents playing on their mobile devices and they want to play too. It's difficult, because having a device can also be very useful in terms of having a reward, having a pacifier. But if you don't get the balance right it can be very dangerous.”

What your four-year old actually does on the internet is important. There are thousands of aps that are now available and aimed directly at the early childhood market. Sitting next to your child and playing games online, especially those with an educational element are recommended. Longitudinal studies have shown a positive correlation between internet use and achievement at school

There are therefore benefits that can be achieved by letting your four-year old child use the internet but it has to be in a controlled atmosphere. Allowing them to play games and visit educational sites can only be a good thing but leave the social networking and solo unsupervised use of the internet wait just a little while longer.

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