Article written by Suren Ramasubbu, Co-founder and CEO, Mobicip.com. Co-authored by Prithiv Sassisegarane, a Mobcip blogger and social media guru.
Kids today are exposed to a lifestyle that is increasingly dependent on digital devices connected by the internet.
What with the Internet of Things touted as the harbinger of the next big wave of innovations, the so-called digital divide will soon be a relic of the past. As internet-enabled digital devices become the norm for interactions at home, work and in social settings, it’s time to distinguish between the messenger and the medium. One might assume, thanks to the ubiquitous prevalence of digital devices, that phones, laptops, gadgets and machines in general are taking over our lives. But before we prepare ourselves for the ultimate Doomsday showdown à la “Terminator”, we need to take a step back to understand the problem. Modern gadgets would be meaningless and “lifeless” without the interconnected network that sustains them and gives them purpose. Going back to the “Terminator” analogy, without Skynet (the artificial-intelligence-network) that “took over the world”, the robots would just be dumb Schwarzenegger look-alikes!
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The digital network has widened social horizons and has taken centre-stage in our lives to such an extent that it is difficult to differentiate between the virtual and the real today. As the internet turns into society 2.0 it’s time to highlight the rules, norms and customs that will hold this new digital era together. Digital citizenship is emerging as the new social code of conduct.
In the past children were eased into society with parental guidance. Parents in today’s modern society however are reticent to mentor their children’s journey to digital access. Why this anomaly? Children today are initiated into the digital web almost at birth. Children in this digital generation appear almost entitled to know more about digital citizenship than their parents, simply because they are more comfortable around the internet. But that’s a dangerous and wrong idea! Parents and teachers share a huge responsibility in inculcating digital literacy in the lives of their children and wards. For all the confidence they possess online, children are in dire need of guidance to stay away from pitfalls on social media and to learn about the dangers of leaving behind a personal digital trail online.The internet is replete with the virtual equivalents of dark alleys that are not safe for children.
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Parents suffer from a fundamental trust deficit over the internet (a valid point at times) and lack interest in learning from their children to bridge this knowledge gap. Parents usually opt to block, regulate or spy on their children’s internet sessions; instead of engaging in a sincere conversation to understand this new world so that they can ultimately help their own kids. How can you save your kids from something you don’t know much about? Before tackling the issue head on, it is imperative to understand why kids behave in a particular way online. “Take an interest in what your children are doing online and have them show you why they like it” says Diana Graber co-founder of CyberWise.org, a digital literacy site for parents, educators, and tweens and teens.
Let’s get one thing clear. Society 2.0 is here to stay.
There’s no heading back to old ways unless of course you plan on becoming a hermit and disconnect from life (nothing wrong about that though!). Children must be taught how to use the internet responsibly and also recognise possible dangers online. Education is increasingly leveraging internet technologies to provide personalised offerings to students and social media behaviour is growing into a determinant of online reputation impacting job prospects. Thus parents and children need to form a mutual bridge of trust and exchange to set boundaries and rules in this increasingly internet-enabled society.
Smart parental control apps like Mobicip, among others, facilitate this consultative exchange between parents and children, to establish a mutually acceptable routine to internet access. Parental concern regarding their kids’ exposure to dangerous and objectionable content online is very much understandable. At the same time clipping their wings or suppressing kids is no the way to protect them. The aim is to help foster a sense of accountability in kids and help parents regulate access without being intrusive. Digital accountability or responsibility tackles the issue at the source (parents, children or family) thus providing a holistic solution that needs no external raison d’être or rationalisation. Instead of thrusting “ethical” internet practices for fear of shame, guilt or even sin, it’s better to teach children to be responsible for their own sake!
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Mobicip, armed with a sophisticated real time content filtering algorithm, enables parents to create a customised internet access that is comfortable for the family. Parents can allow/block domains or websites, customize categories that should be allowed for each user profile, or blacklist specific phrases or keywords; and also set time limits for internet access at home to preserve quality family time. Mobicip allows the administrator to stay in touch with her/his family’s internet and app usage instantly from the Monitor app. Empowering children as stakeholders in the internet conversation, Mobicip provides children the unique access request feature that allows them to disagree over blocked content and request an override. The administrator can then review the request in real time and grant or deny access!
Parental controls must help ease kids into digital access.
Such a controlled and measured initiation will benefit kids into growing “digitally and socially responsible”. Parental controls can only go so far, and parents need to keep open a channel of communication with their children. Content filtering is but one aspect of life online and the “internet safety conversation” can help detect inappropriate behaviour, sexting, cyber-bullying, depression and even prevent anxiety-causing abuses from going unnoticed.
So let’s take the digital citizenship conversation to every household and help adults and children alike find their place online!
Let’s start with you! Share your experience in talking about online safety or digital citizenship or even internet access at home. We would love to hear how parents and children go about deriving a common ground based on mutual respect and recognition. Visit our Mobicip Facebook page like us and message in your stories; 20 selected entries will get a Premium Mobicip license free for one year!
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