The good news is that we may be far too worried about the dangers posed to our kids using Facebook, cell phones, smart phones and the Web in general. Perhaps media coverage and the recent film called ‘Trust’ has made us very wary of what is going on and what dangers our kids are exposed to. In this film, a teenage age is raped by a paedophile who she had met on the Internet.
But none of statistics show that online dangers are more insidious or even more frequent than the offline risks. That does not mean that we should be blasé but just teach our kids to be good digital citizens. We can also teach our kids early on and there are now robot toys which actually get kids loving to learn how to code.
Let me give you some examples. Some research done at The Florida Atlantic University suggests that up to 20% of teenagers may have experienced cyberbullying. But this figure is about the same as that of the more traditional bullying which happens offline. The interesting part of this research shows that the majority of the cyberbullies are not anonymous and the majority of victims actually know who the bullies are.
As regards soliciting for sex online, it is fascinating to read ‘The Culture of Fear’ which was updated last year. Studies from The University of New Hampshire show that one in seven teenagers have been approached online but actually only about 10% of these were between adults and teenagers. That figure puts the situation into perspective. About 50% of all cases anyway were between teens themselves which is just as risky as if they were doing it offline.
Lots of parents are worried about the so called ‘Facebook Depression’. Look at the figures released by the Digital Youth Project which surveyed about 800 kids while they were social networking online for a total of 5,000 hours over three years.
Figures reveal that although there is some time wasted, more than 50% of teens are actually using it for charity purposes by supporting a cause. There is also the fact that many teenagers benefit socially, are more aware of social injustice, are more in touch with the world and even can become very computer savvy as well. About 33% had actually volunteered for an online charity and for connecting with the world for perfectly valid and worthy causes.
Many teenagers were actively involved in the ‘It Gets Better Project’ which helps to establish the rights of gays and lesbians to feel secure and happy in their learning and social environments.
So, what is the best approach to take with teenage behaviour which relies far to much on electronic media? The best way is prevention and education by raising awareness of the e risks rather than draconian grounding, confiscation and other punitive measures which will be circumvented anyway.