Online Family Safety
Part 1 of 5
As technology and the Internet both become increasingly important, they become more prevalent in the everyday life of the average person. This is true even of the younger generations. Many schools now work computer skills into the curriculum, teaching students skills such as collaboration and research. When being online plays such a large part in the lives of so many people, it is important to take a critical look at different aspects of the Internet. Most parents and guardians want their children to be current and efficient with changing technology, but what exactly are they doing? Should your child be on the Internet, and what are the dangers associated with a high level of connectivity?
Determining the Risk
There are many reasons that children are encouraged to explore the online world. With countless books, documents, and images online, children can research many topics with just a few keystrokes. The wealth of information available online is astounding, and the availability can provide unique opportunities for students to retrieve information at a faster pace than previously possible.
Being connected to the world around us also provides some social benefits. Children can talk to their friends, collaborate on school projects, or even video chat with people from different countries without ever leaving their homes. Information can be shared quickly and efficiently. Many organizations such as high school sports teams even have groups on social networking sites to communicate efficiently with all members.
Children who explore technology now can become comfortable with current applications and devices and continue to follow trends as they change in with the times. This may help them in the future, especially as being technologically literate becomes increasingly necessary in the workplace. Children who miss out on opportunities to learn about technology and become comfortable with it may have trouble catching up with peers in the future.
Alternatively, the Internet is not always a friendly place. There are many negative aspects and dangers found online, and users off all ages must be wary of such dangers.
Many people have access to the Internet, meaning that predators and thieves might be lurking behind a suspicious email or waiting in a chat room. Children must be aware that not everyone portraying themselves as a friend is a good person. Meeting strangers online can be incredibly dangerous and potentially deadly.
Impersonation is also often an issue. Imagine a computer screen as a one-way mirror. It’s hard to know who is on the other end of a chat or profile. Someone could be posing as a friend or celebrity to gain access to personal information or lure users into traps or scams.
Less serious but still prevalent, there is always the threat of inaccuracy online. As mentioned earlier, there is a vast amount of information available online for personal or academic research. That being said, a large percentage of the information available online is often opinion, misleading or simply incorrect. Students therefore must leverage their critical thinking skills to be able to differentiate between the facts and inaccurate information, doing otherwise, could seriously jeopardize your child knowledge foundation.
There are also dangers that carry over to offline time, as well. Children who become deeply involved in online activities may find that they lack the social skills to cope during offline activities. According to their study, “Does the Internet Increase, Decrease, or Supplement Social Capital?” Behavioral scientists, Wellman and Hasse (University of Toronto), Witte (Clemson University) and Hampton (Massachusetts Institute of Technology),
“Face to face interaction is of a higher quality than online interaction because it provides nuances that cannot be reproduced by online communication”, moreover, too much time spent online can “draw people’s attention away from their immediate physical environment.”
Social skills often require practice, and children who find themselves more comfortable talking to people online may have troubles communicating when the computer is off. Even in smaller American cities, it’s not uncommon to see people sitting alone, texting or browsing online on their phones or hand-held devices while ignoring the people around them.
It is important to realize that the Internet is helpful to many people and is a large part of daily life for most. It is also important to recognize that there are dangers associated with online activity, especially for young or new users. Like many other activities, users must be vigilant and practice proper usage activities for a safe online experience.