Talk to your child about how to use the internet responsibly
The internet is a powerful and necessary tool in today’s society, both for school and work. It puts a wealth of useful information at our fingertips, is a seemingly limitless source of entertainment, and has taken communication to a whole new level. However useful and fun it may be, the internet also has the potential to be very harmful. That’s why it’s important to talk to your child about how to use the internet safely, legally and ethically. Here are a few pointers, many of which were gleaned at the eye-opening presentation delivered to our Middle School students on February 16 by Dr. Alissa Sklar, who runs risk(within)reason, a consultancy project focused on teens, technology and risky behaviours.
USING THE INTERNET SAFELY
- People have a false sense of security when they use the internet. In fact, it’s relatively easy for an expert to access your information, images or whereabouts when you use the internet.
- Think carefully about what you want to put on the internet (email, social media, websites), whether it be photos or words: once something is on the internet, it can be shared around the world in a matter of minutes, and you can never get it back.
- Never share your address or personal details on a social media site or with a stranger.
- Consider disabling your device’s location settings, so nobody can track your whereabouts.
USING THE INTERNET LEGALLY
- It is illegal, and therefore punishable, to post remarks or images on the internet that promote hatred toward any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
- It is illegal, and therefore punishable, for a minor to have in his/her possession (i.e., on a computer, tablet or phone), or to share, any sexually-provocative or nude photos of another minor, without that other minor’s express consent.
USING THE INTERNET ETHICALLY
- While bullying or harassing someone may not be illegal, it certainly qualifies as unethical. Unfortunately, the anonymity provided by the internet often brings out our meanest tendencies.
- Something disrespectful or distasteful you post may come back to haunt you someday: people have been fired, denied jobs, and refused admission into universities because of stupid things they had posted on the internet as teenagers.
- Parents should also be aware that many teens watch online pornography, the vast majority of which promotes unhealthy – and sometimes violent – views of sexuality. Read Margaret Wente’s recent article in the Globe and Mail for more insights into this issue. Sex education should come from the home, and parents may wish to consider looking into how to set controls on their children’s devices, so they cannot access harmful websites.
In a nutshell: we should all take a few seconds to think carefully before we post – or watch – something on the internet.