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Schools and parents should educate kids on best cyber practices: Experts

Schools and parents should educate kids on best cyber practices: Experts

Malek Helali
DEFINING what qualifies as cyber violence is the most difficult question in the age of social media.
Some experts suggest that there is more harm in face to face situations at a physical proximity than what occurs virtually. However, we've certainly seen instances worldwide where cyber bullying and threatening messages have resulted in tangible physical harm especially in cases involving victims who are children and minors, according to Amy Sanders, professor and licensed attorney at Northwestern University Qatar's (NU-Q) Journalism & Strategic Communication Program.
Speaking to Qatar Tribune recently, Sanders said:"Schools and parents have to work together to create a culture of vigilance about technology in our everyday life and make sure children know what they are doing by making smart choices about what messaging programmes they use or the privacy settings on their social media accounts. These are very granular decisions that people make that we often do not educate anyone about."
"The social media companies do not want us to be educated about these things, they do not want us to make our information private because they make money of our content and they are not going to take the responsibility to come out to the community with educational programmes on cybersecurity and privacy," she added.
NU-Q Communication Program professor Banu Akdenizli told Qatar Tribune that the interesting thing about teenagers and young children is that they do not care about privacy that much, as privacy is a notion we develop as we get older.
"I teach a course where one of the activities my students do is to go on the social media and locate a profile then go through it to find as much information as possible, and they are always shocked by the amount of information they can learn about a person from their digital content. It makes them question the privacy and security of their own accounts and the amount of information available about themselves online. These are some of the things we need to get young people to think about," Akdenizli said.
Moreover, from her experience in previously working with ICT Qatar, and considering the large amount of data they have collected about youth and the way they use technology in terms of privacy and security, Sanders said that many parents feel like they lack the technological sophistication to properly police what their children are doing online.
"Unfortunately, as a society, we can't afford to use that as an excuse. We must not only expect that we have to learn a lot of new things about technology and how to protect our information but also, we as parents have the duty to protect our children. You certainly would not bring a microwave oven, an automobile or a gun into your home and just let your children go wild with it. In that way, we have to see technology as having the same pitfalls alongside its benefits," she added.
Furthermore, Sanders highlighted that a number of countries in the region are providing technology in the school system, and students are given several handouts in the form of comics that encourage them to go home and talk to their parents about the technology.
"From my personal experience, I have a father who is not comfortable with technology and his approach is simply to pretend that it does not exist. That's okay because I am an adult and I can take care of myself, but if this is someone who has a teenager or a young child, the decision not to engage does not work anymore," she said.
Additionally, she said that some adults might say that kids are better with technology than they are, but just because they can use a technology does not necessarily mean they understand the implications of it.
Adding to that, Akdenizli explained that when a new technology comes into our lives, the first reaction is feeling like it is overwhelmingly taking over, especially when it comes with the issue of violence making us feel the need to limit our exposure to the technology.
"This is not only true for the Internet, but also other technologies like the radio and the television. I think we need to teach about the issues and the ways of using the technology in an efficient manner instead of approaching it with alarm. Media literacy for any kind of technology is essential," she added.
Akdenizli noted that one of the challenges in becoming more connected is that the technologies are becoming easier to use even for two and three-year-old children who are now able to use tablets and smartphones."However, when the technology fails to function, it is more complex to fix as the know-how is becoming harder to master, and I think we need to minimize that gap," she concluded.


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