The childhood is a phase of inherent parental care. The parents are responsible for children education, feed, love and care. This task was always hard, however, in digital society, the parents got some allies and other great enemies for this task.
The children are fascinated for technology. They get hypnotized whenever they see the shining and interactive screens of internet access devices. Because of this, majority of parents allows children internet access, both to please them and to enjoy the time they gain entertaining the children, whether for their work or their rest.
According to TIC KIDS ONLINE 2017, around 32% of parents don’t check internet access historical of children and teenagers between 9-17 years old. A substantial number of parents also don’t check the access duration, contact lists and their children online activities. This lack of supervision, matched to immaturity of children and teenagers entails:
- Health risks, such as dry eye syndrome, psychomotor disorders, sleep problems;
- Exposure to inappropriate content, such as pornography and violence;
- Overexposure of image;
- Decrease in school performance;
- Physical and psychological health risk;
Childhood is a phase of children psychic and motor formation, that is, it is a phase of external stimulation and internal development. It is therefore highly recommended that children run, play, talk, rather than sitting for long periods of time, performing repetitive movements and talking to non-interactive beings, so that their bodies will receive the inputs necessary for their full development. Neglecting this care can generate a series of physical, metal, and social damages for children, often irreversible.
The Brazilian society of pediatrics produced a booklet aimed at parents, schools and pediatricians reporting certain risks inherent in the children health, when subjected to long and unsupervised hours of internet access, among them: dry eye syndrome and psychomotor problems. It also suggested some possible measures to promote the health of this group, among them: the control of access time, according to age; respect for the age rating of games and videos; and the constant dialogue of parents with their children.
Exposure to inappropriate content
The freedom of the internet is empowering for those who are able to filter the information they get from it. This is done through critical sense and source verification for example. An adult, because of his or her life experience, decides what to access and what to believe in. This task, even for adults, is quite difficult, imagine for a developing person!
Children and adolescents can freely access or be exposed to any content on the Internet, including fake news, hate speech, pornography, abusive advertising, challenges like Momo’s and scenes of violence.
As noted, they do not have the maturity to discern the veracity of the information, and this can lead to premature disinformation processes and the bad conditioning of the personality. In addition, the contact with speeches and violent images can lead to traumas and deviations of serious behaviors.
An alternative to protect children from the risks of exposure to inappropriate content and the threat from real people is to pre-screen content that reaches children and adolescents. Some applications like Netflix, Chrome and Youtube already have configurable mechanisms of parental control, the parents only need choose this option. There is also the possibility of blocking unknown contacts or install applications on the devices that children and adolescents use, which perform parental control such as kids place among others.
Overexposure of image
In a world of screens, normal has become self-exposure. Children and teenagers, as well as their own parents, often share various moments and private information on the internet. This may lead, among other things, to a future or present ridicule of children.
The Youtuber generation feels compelled to consume and produce content on the internet. Although children have no discernment on most subjects, they have access to information that they are not prepared to digest and end up reproducing others’ behaviors or worse driving theirs for the pursuit of likes and social approval.
This happens daily, without the parents’ perception or with their help. Some parents encourage their children to produce content and they expose their own children through photos and videos on the Internet, in their profiles or in the child’s profile.
Although children enjoy it all, parents should be aware of the risks an early exposure can bring. Children may become targets of rejection on social networks, and such rejection can be immensely damaging to children’s self-esteem by impairing them in their social development. Moreover, children when they grow up can be ashamed of their content and reap the bad fruits of this exposure. For this reason, we must reflect a lot before sharing or authorizing the child or adolescent to divulge their intimacy, on the Internet.
Risks to physical and psychological health
Parents have always been afraid of the strangers their children might find in streets, but they can’t neglect the dangers that online strangers pose to children and teens. About 30% of parents do not monitor their children’s contacts and messages, thus exposing them to online hazards.
Parents should know the people their children relate to on social networks because in these settings their children are vulnerable to attackers such as pedophiles and Stellenbosch, who can, with criminal actions, cause them harm and irreparable harm.
The level of monitoring should be measured by age. Privacy is an inherent right for children and adolescents, so as they grow older parents must broaden and respect their privacy. In the early ages, greater control is always recommended because of their greater vulnerability. However, the most effective and proportionate measure is the habit of dialogue and guidance with the children.
Another danger to the well-being of children and adolescents is cyberbullying. According to Law 13.185, bullying is any act of physical or psychological, intentional and repetitive violence that occurs without obvious motivation, practiced by an individual or a group, against one or more persons, with the aim of intimidating or assaulting her, causing pain and anguish to the victim, in a relationship of imbalance of power between the parties involved.
The great villain in bullying is not a stranger, but an acquaintance! A person who lives with the bullied, reason that makes the aggression indefensible and unavoidable.
It is the responsibility of the family, school and society to adopt measures to prevent systematic intimidation and to promote respect among individuals.
Bullying practices have detrimental effects not only on the aggressor’s life, but also on the aggressor’s life, even if he / she is a teenager. If the offender is an adolescent, he commits an offense and is subject to socio-educational measures, notwithstanding the inherent social sanctions. It has become common for companies to consult the past lives of people who intend to hire and avoid hiring people with a history of systemic intimidation.
In 2017, SaferNet carried out 359 calls that dealt with ciberbullying, who had victimized 242 girls and 117 boys. Unfortunately girls as well as women are the biggest victims of symbolic violence. In each of aggression, get help!
The internet is not the villain, care is the solution
Brazilian legislation (Federal Constitution / 88, Consumer Protection Code, the Statute of the Child and Adolescent, among other legal instruments) gives children and adolescents wide protection, including when the conduct occurs through the internet and several are the applications and settings that offer parental control, so the key point of child and adolescent protection on the Internet is still parental care.
The internet is not a villain, it is the means by which conduct takes shape, and these behaviors are good or bad human decisions. It offered parents and children a series of tools that can be used for leisure, study and care, as well as for children and adolescents.
Fact is that a considerable number of parents are not informed enough about the risks that their children are subject to. So the family’s first step is to inform itself so they can inform their children and provide them with defenses for any possible attack.
Fascicles and booklets produced by NIC.BR are free of charge for parents and children to inform themselves and prevent incidents, besides the texts there are videos that can be instructive for parents. Information, coupled with the confidence built up by family dialogue, allows families to avoid problems or to mitigate the damages of the conduits when already practiced.
In the event of an attack on a child or adolescent, depending on its nature, the guardianship council, the school, the civil police or the Office of the Prosecutor for the Justice of the Child may assist parents in defending their children’s rights and for guidance, the parents have institutions like SaferNet that perform online care.
The family is not alone in the defense of the cyber little ones, as we have seen the resources are there. However parental care and dialogue are still the biggest shields in the defense of small users.