Sunday, November 15, 2009

Are Your Kids Internet Orphans?

If you are concerned about your juniors using the Internet, this article is for you.

You would be a rare stone if you are unable to use the Internet today. In the past few years, the age range of the users have widened. The Internet is no longer dominated by the teens and young adults. Young children and senior citizens are fast becoming active users of the Internet, too.

Are your juniors ready to use the Internet? May be not, you think.

I was having afternoon tea with a friend the other day. We had not met for a while and I intended to have a good chat with her. It turned out that I could only listen to her grouses about her young children spending long hours on the computer. She went on and on between sips of tea and shared with me her anxiety. I could tell that she felt helpless.

This young mother is not alone.

Young children today do not understand a world without computers. They were born into one which is extensively wired and connected. As they were taught to write, they were shown the 'ENTER' key on the keyboard too. So, parents, do get a grip of yourselves and face the new human species you are now bringing up.

In "No Kidding! Your Kids Have Two Lives", I shared that kids have 'real' and 'virtual' lives, both co-exist but do not necessarily coincide. The kids may make a set of friends in the real world and another in the various social networking sites available today.

The fact that our kids are engaged in the virtual world is not necessarily a good or bad thing. The real issue lies with the 'digital divide' between the children and their parents.

Some parents are still in denial to the fact that the digital future has arrived. They carry on raising their children the way their parents did and often wonder why they are not getting anything right.

Some parents are fully aware of the digital waves but are feeling helpless because they are incapable of joining their children in the virtual world. Watching their children having a 'virtual life' from the real world can be very distressful.

In "The Ubiquitous Digital Divide", I lamented how the 'digital divide' is tearing the social fabric that is traditionally founded on and maintained by social norms. This is one the reasons why parents find themselves unable to 'socialize' with their youngsters.

Unless you are young (below20?), you probably grew up learning social skills such as friendly handshake and polite smiles. It is no wonder parents today frown when they see their children poking their friends in Facebook and throwing smiley emoticons to express themselves.

The world has changed and do I even have to tell you that?

When we were children, we watched 'Sesame Street' on the TV. Our parents were contented watching us learning number by number and letter by letter through the episodes with Big Bird and his friends.

Today, the kids have a lot more choices than that. In fact, you would find that kids with access to the Internet find TV not so appealing. If they can get millions of video clips from YouTube, it is understandable that the TV, with limited number of channels, is quite a bore to them.

People around the world post video clips onto YouTube. There are many things in there that you would not want your children to be exposed to. Parents generally would want their children to discover complex issues involving death, murder and sex at a later age.

In fact, if you check the fine prints on the policy statement given by YouTube, it advises that "Children under 13 years are not permitted to access YouTube." That is nice but who is there to to ensure that other than the parents?

Thanks to parents' ignorance and easy access to YouTube, under-supervised children often help themselves to a slew of unsavory video contents. Just play around with the 'Search' function and you will know what your children can get hold of easily.

Parents, YouTube is here to stay and you have two obvious choices.

One: deny your children the access to the Internet and deprive them of all the genuine goodness the Internet can bring to them.

Two: Keep up with the 'digital trends' and help your children access the Internet appropriately.

The option is clear to me. Is it to you?


Parental Guidance on Web Video for Children

YouTube Safety Center: Parents' Resources

"A child educated only at school is an uneducated child."
~George Santayana~
Spanish Philosopher (1863-1952)

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