Children have taken to Internet usage at a rate and intensity that has made the electronics industry the biggest business success story of the past two decades. It has brought with it access to information with ease and speed hitherto unimaginable. It is empowering in its access to information, but is open to abuse.
Parents are faced with the dilemma of encouraging the use of the medium for knowledge-gathering, for entertainment and for social networking, but fearful of the attendant risks. E-Safety in this ever-expanding technological invasion of daily life has become a real issue, and the rapid advances leave most parents behind. Share your concerns and questions with people who are qualified to address them and with other parents who have encountered similar situations.
Quib.ly is a Q and A forum where parents can address questions about appropriate apps, filters, ISP parental control programmes, and have these topics answered by experts in the particular area of concern, be it technological or psychological. It covers the spectrum from software technology to healthy child development.
Filters There are numerous software and hardware technologies out there that purport to act as a barrier to inappropriate web content. These are provided free by most Internet service providers. Whilst it is essential that parents should avail themselves of this technology, it is by no means fail-safe.
Educating the young about the benefits of this technology, the ways to make it work in the child or teen’s interests, but alerting them to its hazards, is essential to enable them to construct their own frame of reference of what is good and what is not. What kind of behaviour is acceptable and what is not. They need to develop critical faculties to deal with undesirable content or social networking abuses.
Personal value system: Children who have had the benefit of growing up in a home that is stable and underpinned by values of decency, goodness, kindness, loyalty and honesty are less likely to become the target of objectionable Internet content or undesirable social networking. It is the child who is subject to indifferent or absentee parenting or parental abuse whose engagement with the real world is so painful that the Internet is his escape into an alternative reality with all its attendant risks. He is alone out there, and that is a problem.
1) Be involved. Encourage your child to discuss questionable behaviours or content with you.
2) Alert your child to the risks of sharing passwords, personal information on social websites which can be lifted and used to his or her disadvantage.
3) Integration with the real world in real-life relationships is vital for healthy personal development. Over-dependence on the virtual world for entertainment or social interaction will stunt personal growth.
4) Cyber-bullying is the weapon of the weak and the despicable. Ignore it. If in the context of school, bring it to he attention of teachers.
5) Older siblings can be a source of guidance where parents are seen to be “uncool”.
6) Apps: there is a multitude of them and they grow daily. Inform yourself by using the forums and platforms on the Internet in order to make informed choices. There is simply too much out there for an overstretched parent to cover all the options.
7) Alert your child to the abuse of the Internet and social media by pornography peddlers and sexual predators. Teach him to turn his computer off immediately one of these sites intrudes upon his Internet use. Where possible report such abuse to your Internet service provider.
For all its dangers the Internet has opened the doors of knowledge and information to those previously denied it. It is a powerful force for good and, if properly managed, the means for your child to hone his critical faculties and facilitate his personal growth.