Next time you hand over the iPad or buy that app your kids desperately want, take a minute to consider how that technology is impacting their life. Take a minute to ask yourself if you really know what is happening in their online world? Do you care? Because you should… and here’s why:
1. Kids are learning, connecting and creating amazing content online.
Kids are becoming entrepreneurs, inventors, and making it rich by the content and businesses they are creating. MattyBRaps is a 13 year old singer who started sharing his talent on YouTube and now has over 7 million subscribers. There is a group of students in Edmonton who are designing an app to combat cyberbullying even before it happens! The future will bring new technology designed by our kids and it has already started.
2. There are criminals that search for and target kids online
These people create fake social media accounts with the intention to meet kids in real life (internet luring) or extort money from them in exchange for pornography (sextortion) The perpetrator follows a process to groom their victim. They will learn all the habits, interests, likes/dislikes about the child and use that information to gain their trust. Once they have this trust, the perpetrator will create an opportunity to meet their victim and cultivate a relationship. They will then use blackmail or shame to keep the child from leaving that relationship.
3. Cyberbullying can have long term effects.
One third of Canadian kids have reported being the victim of cyberbullying. Bullying the digital way allows the bully to hide behind technology. Without seeing the effects and reactions of the victims, online bullying makes it easier for bullies to persist or become more aggressive. Victims of cyberbullying can become depressed, isolated, fearful and may even resort to self harm or suicide.
When sexual photos are shared without the consent of the person in the photo, things can get ugly. Canada’s Bill C-13 aims to protect kids’ personal integrity when it comes to information being shared online. That being said, the majority of occurrences aren’t reported and the spread of intimate photos can be devastating for teens.
5. We want to raise good digital citizens.
The technology kids use will not go away and we should not ignore it. Our kids have amazing opportunities to be innovative and involved in creating a kind and ethical digital world. They have the tools available to them, but they need us to guide the way. They need us to provide the resources and the decision making capability to become good digital citizens. They need us to empower them to be kind upstanders, brave leaders, and daring inventors. Parents don’t need to know the exact details of every app or every website their kids use. But we do need to pay attention to their online behaviour, the choices they make and the relationships they foster. We need to encourage them to be creators and not just consumers. We need to empower them to make good online decisions now so that one day, they can make these decisions on their own.