SHOULD CHILDREN BE ACTIVE ON SOCIAL NETWORKS?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat have a rule that users should have at least 13 years before they can create a profile. However, this rule is often ignored so there are an increasing number of children who have profiles on the most popular social networks. Some profiles are opened by parents, while many children independently open profiles using fake years of birth to circumvent the rules.
There are many dangers on social networks. Communication with strangers and different forms of cyber violence that children suffer – from harassing messages of inappropriate content, insulting on a religious, racial, sexual basis, setting false information, groups on social networks that aim to insult … all these are problems. Violent and inappropriate content is placed on a large number of sites and on social networks, and certainly one of the most serious forms of endangering the safety of children is pedophilia, abuse for sexual purposes, the possibility of kidnapping and various blackouts that have consequences for the physical and mental health of children who have been attacked. There is an increase in the number of video games that have the ultimate goal of self-hurting children and depriving their own lives.
And when we look at the listed of all the hazards for our children, it’s normal to ask why do we even allow them to have profiles on social networks? The question is in place, but in reality, the number of profiles that children open in lower primary school classes is on the rise.
Whether we accept it or not, whether we like it or not, but our children are growing up in the new IT era. The cyber world and social networks are a reality, our everyday life, which rarely anyone, even us adults, can resist, and we should not blame the children and their curiosity that they want to be part of the so-called ‘’virtual reality’’. Social networks facilitated the channel of mutual communication for children and young people, as well as one aspect of socialization. Even some teachers and teachers in elementary schools communicate with their pupils and give homework, for example, in groups on Viber or Facebook groups. A child who does not have a profile in this case can feel the excluded, out of the company. And what do we do, the question is logically asked? In most cases, if a parent refuses to allow a child to open a profile, it does it secretly. The consequences of rush, ignorance and lack of information can be fatal.
If we already accept the fact that a child in primary school (and under 13 years old) wants to have or already has a profile on one of the social networks, then we must explain them the rules of the game. Parents should let children into the world of new technologies, but not to walk alone, but to help them develop healthy cyber identities. There are some applications that parents can install on phones, tablets, computers to limit children’s time on the Internet or to monitor children’s activities. There is no need to forbid children’s activities on the Internet or the phone. Sooner or later, the child will have a smart phone, Internet, a profile on different social networks. It is better always to make these first steps with the child, to joint “forces”.
The parent must be informed of the activities of his children in the room, in the park, at school, and in the yard, and to make sure it is okey, right? Why not apply that to social networks as well!? To begin with, each parent needs to explain to his child that the Internet is not a horrible place if it is properly used and that it can bring a large number of benefits – developing communication skills, learning and improving foreign languages, reading e-books, developing IT literacy … each parent must know that there are a lot of dangers that lurk on the Internet that are targeting the very youngest. The most basic rule that parents refer – check how your child’s profile looks like. Delete private information such as phone number, private email address, school where the child is going, the sporting facility in which he trains, what kind of photos he or she is posting and of course – who are his and hers virtual friends! For example, a child of 10 years should not have hundreds of virtual friends and it is precisely the role of parents to explain potential harmful effects. If we, as a kid, learned that we should not talk to strangers on the street – that same rule we need to teach children to live in cyberspace – there is no communication with strangers.
Being informed is necessary when it comes to protecting children on the Internet as well as education on this issue. “Spying” and “stalking” your own child on the Internet is easy! It is much harder and more effective to build trust in parent-child relationships. This should be the goal when cyber youth safety is concerned – that the child feels safe and able to address you not only when something negative happens but before.
YOUTH PROTECTION ON INTERNET
There are numerous activities provided by cyber space. The Internet has become vital for social, cultural, sociological and economic development. The advantages of distance learning, fast inter-continental communication, effective online business and the development of the state economy, job creation with the development of the IT sector are certainly great benefits, as well as the fact that within just a few seconds, by clicking on the keyboard we can get all the information which we need at the time, made it easier for the society to function. The world is more connected than ever, because the Internet is supranational – there are no borders at cyberspace, at least not physical ones. The Internet has changed the ways businesses operate, governments work, people live, young people think. “The network of all the networks” was supposed to provide us with a better, peaceful future. However, in reality, this is not the case.
Protecting children and young people on the Internet is becoming a major issue, both globally and in Serbia. The number of criminal activities that directly threatens children and young people is increasing. More and more widespread forms of cybercriminal activity such as identity theft and steeling information, then increasingly widespread child pedophilia, cyber bullying, violence and insulting are just some of the negative activities.
The problem often lies in the insufficient attention of the youngest users of social networks as well as their parents, their lack of information and ignorance. Digital education of primary and secondary school pupils must be equally at the national level. Also, it must be accessible to everyone; otherwise, the socio-economic gap may also increase, as well as the feeling of being rejected and inequal.
The most common dangers for children and young people in cyberspace are:
– Easily accessible to disturbing content such are images, information, video clips
– Possibility of being exploit and manipulate for sexual purposes
– Increasingly widespread pedophilia on the Internet
-Sharing personal information with unknown people
– Ability of being kidnap – get acquainted with strangers who are hiding behind false profiles
– The possibility of joining different sects, criminal organizations, terrorist groups, neo-Nazi groups …
– Cyber bullying
On the other hand, it is extremely important that we prepare children and youth for life in a virtual world. In parallel with the digital literacy and development of the IT sector it is more than important to rise the awareness of the cyber security to pupils from the early age. Students should refer to a safe culture of using the Internet and popular social networks. They need to develop healthy cyber identities, learn how to preserve their privacy, minimize risks in the online world, and learn how to distinguish useful and true information from false and untested