The Internet Need Not Be Terrifying!

The Internet Need Not Be Terrifying!

The Internet Need Not Be Scary
The Internet Need Not Be Scary Photo: with Permission B.G Lewandowski

I’m reading through the latest report released by the Parliament of Australia’s Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety. Some of the initial conclusions are, that in Australia we need a much more centralised system for Cyber Safety law and for education. There is a LOT of information all over the Internet, and its confusing and laborious to get through, for both parents and educators let alone kids. However one important aspect of Cyber Safety Education has caught my eye from this report. From the conclusions

“Effectiveness of education programs

19.28 Research into bullying and cyber-bullying appears to show that, although it is prevalent, it is not the behavioural ‘norm’. Promoting socially acceptable behaviour is a more effective strategy than using scare tactics.22 Quite often:

presentations about cybersafety are quite scary and are very didactic, saying: ‘This is what you shouldn’t do; these are the risks.’ It scares the parents and it scares the children. Engage parents about all the positive, wonderful things that their children can learn from technology but tell them about the normal things that you should do to keep yourself safe. It is really important how you engage children and parents.23″

The Internet is amazing, it can be the most incredible way to find information, to communicate and to be creative and have fun! But if its misused and disrespected it can indeed be a very dangerous place.

Far too often I find in my discussions with parents that they are terrified of the Internet, gaming, and social networks, they don’t understand why kids are so amazed by it, and therefor they are being left behind. Parents are finding that kids are ignoring their warnings about privacy and cyber safety as the kids think their parents are total Luddites, and just anti-computer. I believe to successfully educate parents and children on cyber safety a balanced understanding about the Internet is essential. I think that approaching child cyber education by using scare tactics will only work if you balance it with positive stories about the wonderful uses of the Internet to make it a realistic opinion that kids will respect. For example, driving a car can be a wonderful freedom but only with training and responsibility. As a parent or an educator, if you are all doom and gloom about the Internet and gaming and you project your fear of your the child being hurt or cyber bullied excessively, you will only alienate the child so that they will jack up, and disbelieve you, or become secretive so as not to alarm you, and risk having it all taken away.

I agree that education about responsible online behaviour is far better in the longer term than excessive fear tactics. What has been your experience?


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