Guiding a Child in the Online World

Please note: this is a work in progress, it will change and improve over the next few weeks

A Changing World

It’s easy enough to see that the world has changed. Especially since mobile phones arrived, families have problems that no-one in history has had to deal with. Years ago, children wanted to play outdoors as much as possible. Now it may be hard to get them out of the house.

Just Say No?

Not really practical is it? The job prospects for someone who doesn’t know their way around the online world aren’t going to be good.
So there’s a need to understand what’s going on and figure out how to make the best of it for your family


Talk to the Experts

Who are the technology experts in your house? Probably the kids. If so, you can more or less forget about finding some technical fix that will control what they do online. Many of the advertised spy systems just give attackers another way to take over your child’s device. With all the other concerns you have, there’s no time for you to learn enough to overtake the knowledge of a tech savvy child. Remember, they have friends who will probably give them a head start.

What you do need to do is to start learning enough to have a conversation. With a little effort, you can learn a few of the words that will help you understand tech talk on the television news or the Click programme on the BBC.

Your child probably thinks they know more about tech you do, even if that’s not true. So why not ask them to explain things? By gently starting a conversation with them and keeping it going over months and years you can find out what they’re thinking and feeling. Once you have their confidence you’ll be able to introduce some of the wisdom you’ve collected over the years. This is not easy! Starting as early as possible is probably the best approach, but there’s a big risk that your child will think it’s just another way of laying down the law or nagging them.

On the positive side, a habit of talking about issues in a reasonable way will improve your relationship with your child across all areas of life.

Problems to Watch Out For


As an adult, you probably realise that people only put the good news on Facebook. A child may not have the wisdom to realise this. They may think that they are the only people in the world who are bored, lonely or have problems.

The New Rules of Communication

  • Take your time
  • Ask what was meant
  • Discuss a problem in person if you can
  • Talk to your friends if you need to but try not to go online
  • Never put anything about someone online unless it’s OK for that person to see it

Going Astray

Teenagers often have an interest in technology. If they also have a strong ego, they may see themselves as “hackers” and have a strong interest in technical topics. Hacking is glamorised nowadays, and a young person who thinks he’s a great hacker will want to express their skills. This may be where they start to go wrong.

One path leads to online crime. It would be twice as sad if it turned out that he wasn’t actually that good. There are plenty of online tools that can be and instead of a hacker, was actually a “script kiddie”. What
used for crime. Users with very limited ability can get themselves into serious trouble.

Hanging out with the script kiddies

National Crime Agency: Your kid could be a nasty interwebs hacker

Where could your child learn more?

The links below connect you to podcasts for adult professionals so it’s very unlikely that even an exceptionally bright child will understand them well. This could have the benefit of bringing them down to earth if they over-rate how much they know. Most kids probably won’t know want to go much further with them, but as long as they don’t get frustrated there could be a benefit in putting them on in the background; over a period; it can become clearer over a period of time.

What to learn

You Don’t Know JS is a series of books that starts simply but covers some of the deepest programming ideas you could learn. Mastering JavaScript with these books will make anyone a very strong programmer.

Podcasts from the world of Tech


Troy Hunt’s Weekly Update Podcast is a podcast for security and development professionals, but may be one of the easier ways into the subject. He sometimes drifts onto other topics like home systems.
Risky Business is a serious podcast that gives you up-to-date news over the whole world of security. It’s one of the very best but not easy to understand until you’re familiar with security concepts and technical terms used.
Social Engineer Podcast is about the latest scams that exploit human weaknesses, not the weaknesses of IT systems.

Technical Topics for Programmers and Developers

Dot Net Rocks used to be based purely on Microsoft software, but now covers all technology. A very high quality podcast.
Weekly Dev Tips this series explains advanced programming concepts simply.

Life in Tech

These podcasts are not so focused on the technology itself but on the people in tech and technology in our culture
Hello World Podcast is a podcast where people who are well-known in the world of information technology descibe their careers, from the first computer they owned, up to the present. The introduction can take a while and some of the technology described won’t mean anything to people under forty, but there are a number of women featured, which may be encouraging to girls with an interest in IT.
Hanselminutes has a wide variety of topics and people with very different careers and interests.

System Administration

System administration is about keeping systems going rather than writing new ones. There’s a lot of work involved in keeping a website running, maintaining a database and working on system security.
RunAs Radio is presented by Richard Campbell who is an excellent presenter and a very knowledgeable professional.

A Positive Angle

“Successful” gang leaders have management and leadership skills. That’s why they’re at the top. They’ve chosen a very bad way to use their abilities. Perhaps if they’d had direction at the right time they’d be making a good living without looking over their shoulders. So if you can guide a technically gifted child towards a job in tech, they’re much less likely to be misbehaving online. Even if the youngster only has a script-kiddie level of ability, there are many IT jobs that don’t require core programming skills.


I’ll provide links here in case you want to find out more about apprenticeships in information technology.

Online Addiction

Gaming and Gambling

What is ‘gaming addiction’ and how can you prevent children from developing it?

Is it Suitable?

Online Reputation

Check your profile settings
Search for yourself
Importance of a good online reputation


Conversation Starter Guide

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