Being able to navigate through an infinite world of possibilities with just one touch, without a doubt, is something fantastic. After all, in the palm of our hand, we can have quick and easy access to news, entertainment, business, and even reconnect with old friends. It’s fascinating, don’t you agree? And if adults are delighted, imagine how much interest it arouses the interest of children who, in addition to being dazzled by so many stimuli, still observe their parents and caregivers using smartphones and tablets daily, right?
According to a report published in December 2017 by Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund), one in three internet users worldwide is a child. This study, called The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a digital world, identified technology’s risks, and opportunities.
According to the organization, mobile devices allow boys and girls to enter the online world in a less supervised way, and as such, the digital world becomes even more dangerous for children.
“In a digital world, our dual challenge is how to mitigate the harms while maximizing the benefits of the internet for every child and teenager,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
There is no denying that technology is irreversible in our lives and that, yes, it brings countless benefits. However, research shows that the internet increases children’s vulnerability to numerous harms, such as misuse of private information, access to age-inappropriate content, abuse, trafficking, exploitation, and cyberbullying.
With so many risks, you must be wondering: is it possible to protect children from the “door to the world,” which is the Internet? Digital security is the key to answering this question.
Is the digital world harmful to your child?
Every parent knows what a child needs to play with. After all, through play, expressions, feelings, and learning are developed. Therefore, it is fundamental for the little ones’ cognitive, social, and intellectual development.
However, even knowing these benefits that free play provides, who have never let their children entertain themselves for some time on their smartphone to prepare dinner or even to finish that very important report to present at the work meeting? Not to mention that, sometimes, the little ones beg to play just a little longer on the tablet, and, with so much insistence, they get what they want.
These scenes are common in most homes, and anyone who has a small child at home knows that at certain times, digital technology is “a hand on the wheel”. But while we seem to be gaining a few minutes of peace of mind, what consequences will be if internet use becomes indiscriminate?
Due to the extensive list of harm that the use of cell phones, tablets, and computers can cause in children’s lives, Cristina points out that there is research that indicates that access to screens should only be allowed from 12 years of age. However, this is a distant reality, after all, we all know how difficult it is to keep the little ones for so many years away from the internet.
“There is not much to control the entry of technology into children’s lives because parents promote tech initiation at an early age. We can cite as an example, the videos of Galinha Pintadinha, among others. In this sense, guidance is essential. We do not recommend that a child have unlimited Youtube access without supervision. In addition, it is also important to talk to other parents, because the neighbor may not be as aware of the dangers that the internet poses to a child. In this way, the more parents share with the community, the better”, he points out.
How do limit what children access on mobile devices?
Safety in the digital environment is extremely necessary to keep children away from the dangers of the internet. One of the measures that parents and caregivers should adopt is to monitor what the little ones are accessing. “One difficulty that I have noticed in parents is monitoring. Usually, they see themselves as invaders, while, in fact, they have a duty to watch over the safety of their children. Dictating the rules also ends up being very difficult, but persistence and patience are very important, as we can save them from unexpected and dangerous situations. Only in this way will technology bring benefits and mitigated risks” , ponders Cristina.
According to the legal advisor, those responsible should always talk to children and explain what risks they are exposed to when using digital technology. “For younger children, always explain the risks of exposing photos of the house and routine, for example. For older children, in addition to photos, it is important to show with facts the risks they are exposed to when interacting with strangers and so on. Parents should always advise children that all freedom comes with responsibility, showing that there are always limits to everything and that there is no invasion of privacy when it comes to children’s safety”, she emphasizes.