While I was in Toronto recently, I had the pleasure to talk with a couple about Internet safety for children and adolescents. L. has two sons who are more computer and computer game savvy than she is. D. teaches media in a middle school in a volatile area in downtown Toronto. They, like most parents and educators, are swimming through muddy waters when it comes to keeping children safe from adverse content and effects of the Internet.
I thought I would spend a few days writing about topics concerning parents, children, Internet safety, media literacy, media use… It has been a while since I’ve written about these topics near and dear to my heart and mind. The conversation with L. and D. has spurred me on.
Overall, I have the impression that there are difference about how the parents and educators feel about Internet safety and children’s use of media in Germany in comparison to the States and Canada. So, keep in consideration that what I am writing is greatly influenced by the culture I live in and my experiences with my own children (now 13 and 18 years old) over the last fifteen years, and the school children I’ve worked with in the last four years.
If I was to write briefly my stance on Internet safety, it would be to say that the focus of our attention and action should be on guiding our children though the Internet and not keeping them safe from the Internet. To do this, we have to build up a dialog and learn to trust our children to use the Internet appropriately. And by dialog, I mean listening as much, or more, than talking (lecturing, warning). By learning, I mean the whole jumble: to experiment, to problem-solve, fall on our faces, and jump in triumphant.
This means learning-by-doing and not just assimilating a critical mass of facts. Thus, the belief that it is essential for each of us, as parents and educators, to learn, experiment, and participate alongside our children. It is by travelling alongside our children, discussing the pros and cons of certain Internet applications that we can slowly develop a trusting relationship with our children.
To be continued…