How to make technology safe for children

internet-clipart-RiAyAXrLTWould you give your child a knife? Why? A knife is a very useful tool in the kitchen of every home. Beyond the kitchen, a knife could be useful in certain emergencies. But in the wrong hands, it can become a dangerous weapon. The same happens with new technologies and its scope. The misuse of technology, lack of information or lack of guidance, is a latent risk to children.

 

Parents are the first individuals with whom a child has contact and they must provide guidance to help their children learn how to interact with their environment, and more specifically, new technologies. But how do parents teach their children to use a computer and surf the Internet if they themselves do not understand its operation and its scope? The lack of knowledge about the safety of using the Internet is an important aspect of the increasing risks to which children are exposed to when they use electronic devices that connect to the Web. Therefore, pediatricians recommend that parents are informed about the basic steps to protect their children so that they can instruct their children about the security measures to be taken. The sooner the better, since children now days are born with an innate familiarity with computers, tablets and smartphones and therefore, they have a clear advantage on how to use it.

Among the risks to which children are prone is cyberbullying, which refers to aggression, harassment or ridicule against a person. Although this can affect people of all ages, children are more vulnerable to its effects. Disinterest in hobbies, poor appetite, changes in mood, changes in school habits and the use of the computer or phone are signals that are worth paying attention to. Your child may be suffering from cyberbullying.

Another risk is online predators. According to Luis Castro, an expert on the subject, "an online predator is an adult who uses the Internet to exploit children and adolescents, usually for sexual purposes". Regularly, the victims of these predators are found through social networks, chat rooms, and online video games.  With the growing number of people who join social networks daily, predators have more options for finding victims.

The third risk that we have to address is Internet addiction. In the same way as an alcoholic cannot stop drinking, a person addicted to the Internet cannot 'break away from the computer.  Being offline is a true martyrdom for an internet addict because they need to spend more time in a game, social networking or watching videos.  If your child spends more time in front of the screen and they neglect their duties and tasks, they become withdrawn or angry if they are not on the computer.  Beware!  They have developed an Internet addiction.

Of course, the Internet is not only a source of danger. The correct use of it provides many benefits. For example, Internet and computers have access to scientific knowledge at different levels and areas of knowledge. Previously you had to go to the library to look up for information school for tasks.  A few years back we had an encyclopedia to look for required data. Now the information is just a few clicks away. This positively affects school performance of children.

In the field of education, technology can become one of our best allies because of its novelty and variety of resources, and because it offers innovative ways to enhance learning. Without realizing that they are actually reviewing content for their school subjects, children spend a good time playing. The use of educational videos allows children to observe what they hear in class, and thus confirm the knowledge. Interactive programs help them sharpen their visual skills, coordination between eyes and hands, strengthen memory and other mental processes involved in learning.

It has been heard that the Internet has shortened the distances. This is somewhat true. Social networks, if properly used and monitored, can facilitate the opening lines of communication with family and friends who live near or far away. Without neglecting the communication face to face with friends, the digital communication can help strengthen relations of friendship when you can talk and share pictures and videos with people you want.

What is needed then? Before leaving the children navigate in the virtual world, parents need to know how to swim in it.  Better safe than sorry when it relates to our children.  Here are a few simple recommendations:

- It is advisable to monitor what our children are viewing and never leave them alone at the computer.

- Use an antivirus program to filter or block content harmful to children.

- Establish rules on the schedule and the amount of time devoted to the use of computer or other devices.

- Check and find out who communicates with our children.

 

These are simple steps we can take to take advantage of this useful tool and at the same time, protect our children of its dangers.

By  Eduardo Méndez Gómez

Resources: 

ABC.es (2013) http://www.abc.es/familia-padres-hijos/20130613/abci-brecha-digital-ciberacoso-201306131110.html

Castro, Luis. (S/f) http://aprenderinternet.about.com/od/Glosario/g/Depredador-En-Linea.htm

Dominguez, Juan. (2014) http://www.sura.com/blogs/calidad-de-vida/ninos-tecnologia.aspx