Computers have brought untold benefits to children around the world, with the number of connected households increasing each year. By the end of 2008, there were over 1.5 billion people online, up from under 200 million at the beginning of 1998.
But while the potential for good is undisputed, it has also raised new and disturbing issues, especially where children are concerned. Further reading here.
There is a disconcerting gap between what parents think and children know. So while 92% of parents say they have established rules for their children’s online activity, 34% of children say their parents haven’t. These patterns are consistent in other countries across the world:
In France, 72% of children surf online alone, and while 85% of parents know about parental control software, only 30% have installed it.
In Korea, 90% of homes connect to cheap, high-speed broadband, and up to 30% of Koreans under the age of 18 are at risk of Internet addiction, spending two hours a day or more online.
In the UK, 57% of 9-19 year olds say they’ve seen online pornography, 46% say they’ve given out information they shouldn’t and 33% say they’ve been bullied online.
In China, 44% of children said they had been approached online by strangers, and 41% had talked to an online stranger about sex, or something that made them feel uncomfortable.
As children and young people become digital citizens in an online world that has no borders or frontiers, it is critical that threats to their well being must be addressed by all stakeholders, including children themselves. They are urged to learn to use their computers and online devices safely, including the installation of firewalls and anti-virus software and how to spot unusual communications.
For children, a set of SMART rules have been spelled out with regard to:
- Setting limits
- Meeting online friends offline
- Accepting invitations/friendships
- Telling someone about their concerns
Here’s a little excerpt of my view on kids and the internet which I gave to BT some time ago:
Muhammad Reeda Malik, 38, does not believe in letting children go online whenever they please.
He described that letting them surf into the wee hours of the morning in the privacy of their own room is "a no-no" in his book. Instead, he suggests having a set time to help them manage their time and instil some discipline as well.
As a father of three daughters, two of whom are approaching their teens, the founder and creator of the popular local blog anakbrunei.org monitors his girls’ online activities by using a website blocker on the Linksys wireless router to block sites which contain certain inappropriate keywords but chooses to have the computer located in a common areas such as his study or the family room.
In addition, they are not allowed to go online on school nights unless it is for school work.
Muhammad Reeda shared with The Brunei Times that he hoped he has given his children the right moral foundation to trust them not to abuse their web privileges.
Although occasionally, he does, check the logs on the router to see where they have been.
And so far, he has found that his children have behaved well.
But if he finds that they abuse his trust in future, they would have to face the consequences of losing their web privileges and will have to earn back the trust that was lost.