Making Sense of Digital Citizenship for Kids in the 21st Century
Thanks to globalization and the rapid adoption of digital devices by many, the whole idea of digital citizenship for kids and the general population has become a topic of importance in the 21st Century. The aim is to empower children and parents with a sense of digital etiquette to make interactions with the digital ecosystem useful and responsible.
In the absence of digital citizenry, netizen children are bound to abuse technology now that it is integral to every aspect of their lives. Today, they can hardly work, eat, socialize, and even sleep, without some form of digital intrusion.
This comes with its challenges, not to mention encounters with online sexual predators, bullies, fake news, criminality, invasion of privacy, sharing of information without much thought, intellectual property infringements, and of course, the increasing lack of empathy! Last and not least, technology now exposes them to behavioral and multiple health risks!
What Digital Citizenship is – and Not
Digital citizenship refers to the responsible and constructive interaction with technology tools such as the Internet, personal computers, and other digital forms, for the better. It is a kind of behavioral etiquette and quality control measure against using technology to offend others through device and data abuse.
Teachthought defines digital citizenship as
The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.
And for the good of future generations, digital citizenship for kids is meant to prepare young children with precautionary skills to weave their way around the evolving digital landscape. Thankfully digital citizenry is not about infringing on children’s rights on the use of technology.
Parental Tips for Responsible Use of Technology at Home
Digital citizenship for kids or better still, responsible use of technology at home should be an option if we are to consider the following arguments:
1. Acknowledge the Side-Effects of Technology on Child Health and Wellbeing
Acceptance is usually the first step we take in the quest to make changes in our lives. It is only after recognizing technology is not all roses that we stand a better chance in addressing the negativities it carries along.
First is the acknowledgment that electromagnetic energy (EMF) pollution in the house is real, largely because of electronic gadgets we have piled in every room. These contaminate the air and will be on the way as children crisscross EMF invincible pathways!
Children, just like adults, are exposed to electromagnetic energy, when they place cellular phones in pockets, sleep with them under the pillow, and talk through them for extended hours. Repeated exposure to EMF can lead to ‘benign’ side effects such as tech-neck, back pain, hand tingling, numbness, eye-strain, and serious health complications such as cancer, obesity, ADHD, and impaired mental health.
Scientists have reported adverse health effects of using mobile phones including changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns. More studies are underway to try to confirm these findings.Health risks associated with mobile phones use
Too much screen time also denies children and adults sufficient time for physical activity, sleep and of course exposure to daytime natural light. At the same time, family interactions are hit hard when children and adults use technology in all the wrong places such as the dining table.
2. Technology and the Environment
Besides contaminating the air, the haphazard disposal of electronic hardware is known to affect the environment in so many ways. The challenges arise from the unquenchable thirst for energy, the damage to the climate, water, land, air, and the unfinished story of hardware disposal. Electronic hardware does not dissolve in the environment as quickly, or it never does, and the pile-up over the years ensures the quality of the environment degrades over time.
All in all,
higher percentage of environmental problems is a direct result of technology mismanagement by innovators and users. A small portion of environmental issues relate to economic, social and natural changes resulting from human activities. Environmental pollution, ecological systems disturbances, depletion of natural resources and climatic changes resulting from global warming are technological influenced. Technology is significant in development and increased productivity to satisfy human need, but uncontrolled technology impacts environment negatively.Essays, UK. (November 2018). Technology has bad effects on environment.
Responsible digital citizenship for children starts with awareness and finding working solutions for correct disposal of technology to cut short the unstoppable damage we are doing to the environment.
3. Technology is Awash with Inappropriate Content
Besides the exposure to electromagnetic energy, extensive use of cell phones and other technology forms can lead to inappropriate social behavior both online and offline. The obvious fact relates to our limited interactions as humans because we are busy on our smartphones. We do this even in the company of family, friends, and even at work. Family moments, in particular, demand that we communicate verbally, and seek each other out through eye-contact.
Besides the social disruptions, extensive use of the internet exposes our children to inappropriate content online. When young children are introduced early to online social platforms they easily become victims of cyber-bullying, stalking and trolling. Even worse, they may choose to perpetuate the behavior themselves or fail to demonstrate empathy.
Still, preteens and teens happily share their private lives, photos, and video clips with online strangers all in the name of wanting to appear relevant and to feel accepted by peers. In what is known as Fear of Losing Out (FOMO) they now use online tools to pimp their body image to look ‘beautiful‘, ‘handsome‘ and ‘exotic‘. This is a roadmap to insecurity, low self-esteem and of course misuse of resources.
Parents are unaware of these ills most of the time because we are busy at work, busy swiping away, or lack the information related to the abuses.
4. Creating Tech-Free Zones at Home is Great for Digital Citizenship for Kids
Excessive use of smartphones and other personal computers limits the time parents spend communicating with family, and children in particular. Deliberate strategies are in order if we are to keep technology in check. This includes creating tech-free zones in these places:
- Family mealtimes; and this should be enforced even when dining alone
- The bedroom
- During house chores, such as doing dishes or laundry
- When children are out playing unless of course
Of course, it is next to impossible to achieve the set targets all the time, but somehow it has to start somewhere. The tech-free zones should be observed by both parents and children, without double-standards.
5. Inclusive Technology at Home
Family involvement and engagement is an important arrangement to help children become responsible digital netizens. This involves keeping tabs on how and for what purpose everyone is using technology. Your family may develop a habit of watching movies and playing games together instead of leaving children to run riot on their own. Besides entertainment, you can help children use technology creatively to accomplish educational assignments.
Parents can also enforce a deliberate balance between domestic activities and the use of smartphones, computer games and movie watching. Apportioning specific hours for homework, gameplay, and prioritizing plenty of unstructured playtime for children cultivates a sense of order at home.
Leisurely screen time should be limited to 1 to 2 hours a day for children below 5 and depending on other conditions, additional hours can be set aside when computing is done for educational reasons.
Playtime and the big picture of physical activity should be a compulsory item in the family menu. It is a positive detractor from unnecessary indulgence in technology, and something that children actually love doing.
6. Device/Data Management & Security
It is only a few years now since smart devices and the larger picture of the Internet of Things (IoT) became possible. Those who can, now automate domestic chores and remotely activate or deactivate devices at home. Typical IoT devices include smart speakers, smart cameras, fitness trackers, gaming consoles, smart bulbs, smart doors, smart fridges, mobile phones, interactive robots, smartwatches, and of course smart TV sets and laptops.
There is, however, a problem with this now that IoT devices require continuous connectivity to function correctly. This raises questions over data management, configuration and ultimately, security. While there is possible data compromise by hardware and software manufacturers, the real threat comes from cybercriminals who hack them for ransomware and other reasons. An attack on one device with an insecure configuration is a sure gateway to other devices at home.
A typical scenario involves hacking the security camera to access video and audio feeds or hacking the TV set in order to install Ransomware on the laptop. This will compromise laptop data and leave it inaccessible.
Below are a few digital citizenry tips to keep children and homes safe:
- Boost our digital literacy in order to secure data and implement hack-proof security
- Secure devices by use of up-to-date security software
- Wisely store information on smartphones and computers
- Limit office work at home
- Watch out and block inappropriate content
- Use content control hardware and software for the privacy and safety of children
- Minimize carelessness and ignorance when interacting with technology at home
7. The Right to Privacy
We often choose to understand online privacy as the protection of personal data from online snoops and criminals. Real privacy, however, goes a step further, safeguarding what we know about others. We are also encouraged to cultivate a sense of cultural and religious awareness in the young generations, for them to respect other people’s lifestyles and beliefs.
At the end of the day, children should,
- Respect others’ needs for privacy
- Seek consent before sharing content online (images, videos, and conversations), that are not theirs
- Avoid noisy (voice call) inconveniences
- Desist from cyberbullying and spreading of hate content
On a very important note, children should also pay close attention to the kind of private information they willingly share online. Every time they install apps on their smartphones they become willing partners with app developers, especially when they accept the stipulated terms of service.
The following may go a long way to cement the concepts of digital citizenship for kids at home:
- Develop awareness of the fair use of the internet, intellectual property, digital fingerprinting, and copyright
- Learn to cite the information sourced and used online
- Improve digital literacy by valuing credibility over fake news and misinformation
- Parents should empower themselves with the right to information, and double standards when it comes to technology use at home. Children too should hold parents accountable for the misuse of technology.
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