For most of us, the Internet has become an indispensable part of our social lives: we use it to keep up with old friends, keep in touch with our families and meet new people. Unfortunately, not all online interactions are as positive as these. This tip sheet will explain some of the issues we face when we socialize online and provide tips for dealing with them.
As well as invaluable tools for keeping in touch with our friends, families and our work, mobile devices have become an increasingly big part of how we access the Internet. Unfortunately, while many smartphones are nearly as powerful as computers, we often don’t use the same caution with them as we do with our computers—and they often don’t have the privacy and security safeguards that come built into computers. As well, the fact that we’re never far from our mobile devices can bring a host of opportunities for us to be distracted and to make poor choices.
Images of men and women in the media are often based on stereotypical roles of males and females in our society. Because stereotyping can affect how children feel about themselves and how they relate to others, it’s important that they learn to recognize and understand gender stereotypes in different media.
Racial stereotypes abound on television, and children’s programming is no exception. The turban-wearing bad guy, the brainy Asian, and the Black basketball whiz are just a few of the stereotypes reinforced in children’s cartoons, films and TV shows. Spotting these stereotypes is often difficult for children; to them, the tomahawk-wielding Indian or the Asian karate expert is a familiar, easily-understood and often funny character. So how do you help children understand these images for what they are – oversimplified, generalizations?
Many preschoolers are already active computer users. According to a 2012 Ofcom report, one-third of children ages 3-4 access the Internet using a computer, while a 2011 survey by Common Sense Media found that roughly the same number have used mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. While children at this age have a limited attention span for online activities, Internet images and sounds can stimulate their imaginations and add to their experiences.
Five- to seven-year-old children have a positive outlook and an accepting nature. They take pride in their new reading and counting skills and love to converse and share ideas. They are eager to behave well; they are trusting; and they don’t question authority.
Eight- to ten-year-old kids have a strong sense of family. They are interested in the activities of older kids in their lives; they are starting to develop a sense of their own moral and gender identity; and they tend to be trusting and not question authority.
Adolescence is a period of great change. It’s a stage where teenagers, once dependent on their families, are now becoming more independent and taking steps towards adulthood. This is also when teens are developing their own sense of morality, as they try to find their own identity and experiment in their relationships with others. Even though teens start to physically resemble adults, their brains will not be fully developed until they are 20 or 25 years old, especially their frontal lobe – the part that allows them to control their impulses.
From pre-teen to teen is a time of rapid change in kids’ lives. Although at this stage they are still quite dependent on their families, they want more independence. Also, relationships with friends become more important and they start to take an interest in the world around them.
Having a family agreement or set of ground rules for using social networks is a good idea. It’s a great way for parents and kids to work together on how to be safe, wise and responsible online. Here are some ideas: