The world spins faster than we can understand it. Even though we benefit from the rapid development of the internet and related technologies, children might not understand the boundaries of using these technology tools.
When children get unfettered access to technology, its dangers can spiral out of control. Parents and guardians have the responsibility to protect the young ones from cyber insecurity, bullying and exposure to indecent content, experts now say.
According to Kaspersky, 84 per cent of parents worldwide are worried about their children’s online safety, The survey commissioned by Kaspersky and conducted by the market research company Savanta said that despite this, on average, parents only spend a total of 46 minutes talking to their children about online security through their entire childhood.
“Although global figures, I feel that this situation is likely mirrored in the local market and something that needs attention to change. With the digital world expanding continuously, offering opportunities that cannot be ignored, we tend to be quick on the uptake of exposing children to all things digital, to support their schooling requirements and recreational activities,” Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager of Kaspersky in Africa said.
He added that “However, we should not lose sight of the fact that the digital world is also a dangerous playground, filled with bullies and strangers that just like in the real world, pose risk to children.”
The Kaspersky survey found that of the respondents, over 9 in 10 children between 7 to 12-years of age globally now have an Internet-enabled device, smartphone or tablet. Naturally, and considering this reality, children’s privacy and security online are becoming one of the parents’ most prominent concerns.
Some of the concerns from the survey include children seeing harmful content, such as sexual or violent (27%); experiencing Internet addiction (26%); and receiving anonymous messages or content inciting them to carry out the violent or inappropriate activity (14%).
Caleb Ndaka, Programs Lead at Kids Comp Camp, an initiative to teach children how to use technology, concurred that the responsibility lies at the feet of families to protect their children.
“A recent research said parents now spend twice as much time with their children as 50 years ago. It is high time we questioned what the quality of time we spend with our children is. Are we parenting while getting distracted by screen time?” Ndaka posed.
He told WeeTracker that research shows extended screen time both by the child and parent has a negative impact on the parent-child relationship. It has negative social, emotional and mental effects; as well as neuro-biological effects on children’s developing brain and addiction.
“The primary role of a parent is to care, support and guide a child from infancy to adulthood. The primary caregiver of a child should be their parent(s). The primary school of a child is at home. This does not mean that the parent will always be 100% responsible for their children’s outcomes but the parenting responsibility squarely lies on their shoulders and so is the blame,” Ndaka reiterated.
“Essentially, people are looking to technology and the world around them to fill an internal void – and children are particularly sensitive to this as they are still very innocent and rely on feedback from the world around them to begin to form their view of self and the world,” Dr Tertia Harker, a Social Worker with a Doctorate in Psychology in private practice in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban said.
- If you know what your child is looking for online, you can offer help and support, and teach as you go about using the information carefully.
- Discuss with your child how much time they can spend on social media if they have social media accounts and teach them about what information is not okay to share online (school, where they live, contacts details etc.).
- Try not to limit your child’s social circle online and teach them to take care when choosing friends and acquaintances. The same ‘stranger-danger’ principle applies in the online world.