While there is undoubtedly a lot of potential for finding knowledge and quickly assembling research via the Internet, kids that use search engines and social networks for school and pleasure can end up facing significant dangers.
These dangers can be as extreme as finding explicit content when carrying out searches, but can also include more general Internet issues like downloading viruses and giving out personal information on social networks. In this context, parents and schools should work together to educate and give children the tools needed to use the Internet responsibly.
As a research tool for kids, the Internet does have a lot of benefits. Rapid access to information means that it is possible to research projects vary quickly, with options to cross reference and evaluate the best data available. Or, in other words, not just relying on Wikipedia for facts. With online databases available for newspapers, as well as Google Books’ collections of free material, any student that wants to carry out in-depth research can do so within a few hours.
It is important, however, for schools and parents to provide children with guidelines for when they use search engines. This can involve getting children to think about how they approach searches; what are they looking for, and what are the best ways of finding it? Being able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different web sources, and knowing where it’s probably best not to look for information, is also important to emphasis.
However, it’s also vital that children receive an education from an early age about the many dangers of using the Internet. Basic searches can cause problems, particularly for image and video directories, while social networks can be easily compromised by sharing personal information. Moreover, children can accidentally open files containing viruses, or can register for gambling sites - there have even been some rumors of children managing to arrange for loans to be issued via website deals. On a more extreme level, children can fall victim to cyber crime and identity theft, or can be subjected to cyberbullying.
There are many ways in which the dangers of the Internet for children can be reduced. Some of the more straightforward approaches involve installing parental blocks; these are not always successful, though, and should be backed up by a comprehensive attempt to educate children about how best to use the Internet. This involves not demonising technology, but instructing children about potential dangers, and to avoid making simple mistakes when sharing important information with others.
Parents can also make use of apps that allow them to remotely monitor their children’s browsing habits, which can also be extended to smartphone usage.
Being able to instill positive habits from an early age is arguably more successful in the long term, though, with schools also having the responsibility to teach students about how the Internet can be effective for researching, while also reinforcing common sense when it comes to what children should do to avoid problems.
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-Article Contibuted by Emily Steves