The Internet creates for us and our children a wealth of opportunities from an early age. The connection between people, the consumption of information and a stage for expressing opinions are only some of the virtues of the Internet and its development into an integral part of our lives. Only that alongside these opportunities, it is important to keep in mind that at a young age it is more difficult to contain the endless amount of information found on the Internet, to understand the totality of the social implications of Internet communication and the importance of guarding privacy.
While in the not-too-distant past, before the Internet came into our lives, parents’ control of their children’s way of life and the sources of information to which their children were exposed were known and recognized, with the digital age revolution, the penetration of the Internet into the private sphere and the bursting of social media networks into our lives out of the blue, this parental control has been essentially taken away. On their part, they find it difficult to catch up with their children who run virtual lives through the computer screen or the smartphone, and may identify their children’s distress, stemming from a host of negative factors on the Internet, such as violence, pornography, pedophilia or just a negative and hurtful interaction due to shaming and the phenomenon of online cyberbullying, only at a late stage and after damage had already been done, sometimes irreversibly, whether mental or even physical in exceptional cases.
Here are some more troubling data: more than a quarter of teenagers report that they have witnessed cases of blackballing originating online or through social media apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. 40% of children and teens in Israel regularly encounter content that is not appropriate for their age. They spend an average of 4-7 hours a day on the Internet and almost universally say that their parents are not involved in their online activities at all.
That is why we, as parents, have the duty to face the dangers of the Internet, show courage and take proactive measures to minimize the potential harm to our children. Tips for dealing with this sad reality include, for example, refraining from providing personal information, including forwarding pictures and videos to others, limiting daily surfing time on the Internet, and taking advice from the anthropological-psychological field, such as creating in the home an atmosphere of sharing without passing any judgment on the child.
Whether you trust your children with your eyes closed or watch with worry every step they take, it is our duty to understand the power of digital means and their negative effects on the younger generation.