Today is a Safer Internet Day, organized by the European Commission's INSAFE network in order to encourage children, their families and teachers to discover the online world together ("Digital Agenda: Safer Internet Day 2012, linking up generations for a safer digital world"). Currently 77% of 13-16 year olds and 38% of 9-12 year olds who use the Internet admit to having a profile on a social networking site. 12% of the latter group admitted to having been bothere or upset by something they have seen online. Since most children receive advice on safety online from their parents, teachers, relatives - then it makes sense to organize this year's event around the communication about online world between generations.
It's not only a European event, it's celebrated worldwide to promote safer Internet for children and teenagers. However, it fits perfectly within the programme of the Digital Agenda. In December 2011, the Commission arranged for 28 leading companies to commit to making a better and safer Internet for children, and three more companies joined the coalition in January 2012. These companies enable easier reporting of harmful content, ensure privacy settings at age-appropriate levels, offer wider options for parental control and control classification.
The 6 key tips that INSAFE gives to parents and teachers to keep children safe online are:
- Talk about the internet and dedicate time to explore it together with the child. Ask the child to show them what he or she likes to do online, and try not to be shocked or overreact if they do not share the same interests.
- Stimulate the child's creativity. Point them in the direction of the best online content to explore for their development (or just for fun). The child can learn and discover new sites, play games, write blogs, create websites. Stretch his or her imagination.
- Set up rules or boundaries together. When\Where\Why and for how long can the child use their mobile phone or computer? If you listen to the child and establish fair rules, then he or she is more likely to stick to them.
- Protect personal data and help the child understand that information or photos they put online can remain visible to everybody forever. Help them set up the highest level of privacy settings on social networks.
- Think about using parental control tools to automatically filter certain topics (e.g. violence, porn) and limit the time the child will be able to navigate the web.
- Avoid having a computer in the child's bedroom. Put it in the living room instead. It will make it easier to follow the child's web-surfing habits on a daily basis.
I agree with these tips except the latter one. I don't think we need to shield our children to the point of infringing their right to privacy. I had a computer in my room when I was growing up and maybe I encountered a few times something that had bothered me online but at least then I was not at risk of being embarrassed as well, knowing that my parents could be walking any time in the room and seeing it. It's all about trust and communication that we have with children, not absolute control (which is impossible to achieve, anyway), in my opinion.