I would like to address the potential benefits and risks to children who access digital media. There has been a lot of attention given to cyberbulling in the media lately but there are additional issues to consider. Navigating digital media has its benefits, however we must be diligent in setting healthy boundaries around the use of the Internet and digital media.
Computer Savvy Kids- Experts on Digital Media
When we were kids, the type of media we had access to was much more limited than what children today have readily available. We could not call or text our friends on cell phones, post thoughts or feelings on the Internet, or play video games online with people we have never met. The Internet didn’t exist. Cell phones were not commonplace. Today, it’s a different story.
In many ways, children of this generation know much more about the cyber world than the adults around them. They now are connected to social media sites, they can pound out a text faster than we can blink an eye, they write in “code” IMO, and they know how to use all of the features found on the latest cell phones.
What they don’t know CAN hurt them. Since teens in particular think they are invincible, they often overlook potential Internet dangers. Not only does the use of digital media pose certain risks, it also makes it easier for children to access inappropriate content (pornography as well as instruction and support around suicide, starvation, purging, and self mutilation).
Children may also misuse social media websites to bully peers. I recently attended a workshop on Cyberbulling and findings suggest that cyberbullying is appealing because it’s anonymous, immediate, reaches a large audience, and can be conducted from any location. Perpetrators of cyberbullying can also assume a target’s identity online. In addition, children often overlook the fact that posting identifying information to social media websites can make them victim to online predators.
Benefits- A World of Possibility
Children have the ability to learn or engage with digital media in a very educational way. They can research the answer to any question they may have, learn how to develop new skills (for example, learn to play guitar on YouTube), and improve the ability to make social connections. For children who may otherwise feel very isolated, digital media can invite them into a community. In addition, children’s typing skills, scanning ability, hand/ eye coordination, and capacity to pull resources may be much more advanced as a result of their relationships to digital media. Many of the skills they are developing now may help them succeed both academically and professionally in the future.
How Adults Can Stay Connected
Children of all ages need limits around their use of digital media.
-Computers should be placed in public spaces and cell phones kept from use at bedtime
-Time spent on digital media should be monitored and limited (time spent without digital media should be encouraged)
– Parents should be involved in their children’s computer use by knowing their children’s online friends
-Talk to children about online expectations, block access to inappropriate information, and keep an open dialogue with children about the benefits and dangers of digital media
-Teach children to be cautious and responsible when using digital media and to make sound decisions
-“Friend” your child on Facebook or other social media sites
While we did not grow up with the same exposure to digital media, we can take an active role in teaching children to use it wisely. There are many benefits to the having access to the Internet and digital media- isn’t it great that we don’t need encyclopedias, can shop online, and can stay connected to loved ones? ! We should encourage children to be proactive in their online safety, to ask adults for help, and to be selective in what they do online.