The question will come – like “How are babies made?” – before you know it. You may also anticipate and raise it yourself while online with your child by your side (checking out photos on Facebook, sending an email to a friend or selecting a video to watch together on YouTube). Whatever your situation, we have set out below in simple terms how you can explain the Internet to your child.
At the end of the article, we included an activity for you and your child. Getting actively engaged increases the chances that they will retain the information you wish to convey.
INTERNET IN A NUTSHELL
Internet is a giant network of computers covering the entire world.
Network means that all the computers are connected together (in even simpler terms: can talk to each other / can send things to each other).
Because they are connected, computers can share many things together: messages (like emails or letters), photos, videos of people, songs music, movies, magazines etc.
Therefore, with the internet, we share things from our real life with other people who are behind their own computers (but we do not always know who is really behind other computers – you can touch upon the "stranger danger" theme now if your child is mature enough to retain so much information at once (in any case, this is a topic we will address in a forthcoming article).
An important thing to know is that there are many devices which, in addition to computers, are connected to the Internet: phones, tablets, TVs or video games, and even some watches.
To help your child visualise the network connections and sharing of information, try the activity below! You may end-up with a more complex creation or a simpler one only involving a little drawing – whatever works!
Step 1 – Create the computers and other devices connected to the Internet
For your set-up, you can make your computers, mobile phones and tablets out of play dough, Legos or cardboard.
Step 2 – Set up the network
To symbolise the network connections and flow of shared information between the various connected devices you can use woollen threads, spaghetti or more play dough (Hello, long wriggly worms!). Once you've done this, it should look like a web!
Step 3 – Depending on the age of your child, you can refine your network set up and flow of shared information
Why not use a blue woollen thread or painted spaghetti to show to what computers your emails are going? Similarly, use purple for photos or yellow for videos. This is an opportunity to start introducing the notion of privacy and privacy settings. Again, if your child is young and you are certain she/he is not about to go online on her/his own, you might want to keep this key notion for your next Internet conversation as the concept of network is already a lot to absorb.
To help you get an idea, here is a photo of the set-up made with a 6 year-old child. The computers, tablets and mobile phones are connected and share their information with "internet spaghetti".
Some houses could even be drawn or built up around each device for added realism.