Children, Mobile Devices and Internet Safety

Kids-on-Tablet-PC

Mobile devices have come to stay and will most definitely outlive many other technologies. Mobile devices make our lives easier. They are packed full of a wide variety of functions: calls, text messaging, photography, short notes, tasks, reminders, alarms, reading networking, etc. Over a million devices get activated every day. Here I am daring to ask how many of these end up in the hands of children? What are the risks of having them in the hands of our children?

Do the pros outweigh the cons? Have parents really thought of the risks of giving these kids active mobile devices to grow up and go to schools with? I won’t go off like there are no advantages to our children having those devices in this day and age. There are quanta of benefits from having kids use mobile devices at different ages of development. Some mothers use them as pacifiers for their cranky kids. There are fantastic educational apps that can help children develop faster and smarter. Perhaps we will have a look at some of those apps in a follow-up article. There are mobile games that help in the development of IQ for kids. There are apps that aide and help the handicapped learn faster.

However, the questions that leave me worried all the time are:

  1. Are the children properly educated on how to use these devices? Rules and guidelines?
  2. Is their usage monitored?
  3. Is there proper upbringing in place?
  4. Are the right mores and values inculcated in them to discern what is right or wrong?

My previous article was on how these devices have become our tools for “on the go” learning. However, for children, what are the measures put in place to monitor what they get exposed to?

I have heard and even witnessed some horrid, terrifying and scary scenes of kids below 11 with their mobile devices. Those that don’t even have access to the internet use SMS chat rooms to do so many horrid things we wouldn’t dare recount here. I have heard of cases where kids ‘Google’ their test questions in the middle of a class test. So, I ask again, is technology entirely of advantage especially with kids from age 4-15?

There are many cases of children playing games with their phones/tablets at the back of the class instead participating along with others. There are cases in which kids hardly do anything else at home except with their phones/tablets. For some I will dare to say it has become an addiction that even to eat is almost like war. In certain cases, within a split second of letting your eyes off them, they are live on porn websites watching adult videos and listening to lewd songs.

Some people will say that parents should monitor them, but how do you do that when you are not with them at all times of the day? It is almost impossible and that brings me back to the question of how we can mitigate the occurrence of these vices? Should there be an age peg to having mobile devices?

Are there in-built applications that could be developed to monitor where the kids go to with just a swipe on the touchscreen of a smart phone? Some of those kids actually know how to clear browsing history. Does that beat you? These are the children we have today.
Are there content filters from our network providers?

Following are excerpts from an interview I had with a friend who has a 10 year old boy. Enjoy:

Chyka: And that brings me to interviewing you…. How old is your eldest child?
Yomi: He clocked 10 in May.
Chyka: Wow!
Chyka: Aren’t you that dude? 10-year old child already? Awesome!
Yomi: *raises eyebrow*
Chyka: LOL.
Yomi: What dude o? LOL.
Chyka: You know what I mean
Chyka: Okay… *camera clicks* and interview starts
Yomi: Okay
Chyka: Does he have a mobile device? Any kind?
Yomi: No; we haven’t given him one yet, though he is almost always with the home phone, a Sony Ericsson feature phone, when he’s at home. He also gets to use our tablets whenever he needs to.
Chyka: At what age do you plan on giving him one?
Yomi: We are not sure yet, but our thinking is that when we see the need, he will get one. We do intend to get him a personal tablet sometime next year. Probably as a birthday present.
Chyka: Hmmm…..cool
Chyka: Okay…. Do you ever monitor what he does when he borrows yours now?
Yomi: Yes; we do. It is essential at his age.
Chyka: That’s assuming he has internet access
Yomi: Yes; there is internet access available.
Chyka: Okay…. What sites does he go to most of the time? What does he look for and of what use is the tablet to him at this age?
Yomi: Games, cartoons, educational video sites. There’s a site where he learns mathematics in a fun way. His number one interest on tablets right now is gaming. For example, he is an Angry Birds freak…
Chyka: LOL. Serious? Interesting. Okay, so you have grand rules and guidelines as to where to go to while using the tablet?
Yomi: Well, we don’t particularly forbid him from going anywhere. We just encourage him to talk about everything he sees and does, then we use the feedback to enlighten him on the pros and cons.
Chyka: Okay….cool. Do you know if he has friends or classmates that use mobile devices or even bring them to school?
Yomi: He has friends who own iPads. He chats with them every now and then. We don’t know whether any of them bring them to school, though we doubt that.
Chyka: Chats with them via messengers?
Yomi: Yes. Primarily via BBM using his mother’s BlackBerry. He also exchanges mails. I opened an email account for him quite a while ago.
Chyka: Beautiful…so he’s all exposed to these without owing a device himself. Great. Now as parents, why do you think he should (should have been *shouldn’t*) own one yet?
Yomi: Own a phone or a tablet?
Chyka: Both
Yomi: Having a personal tablet will help him develop modern communication skills that are vital to his survival on today’s high tech world. It is also a powerful educational tool. We are aware of the risks involved though, but they just have to be managed. As for a phone, he doesn’t need one now, but when the need arises, we will get him one.
Chyka: Okay….cool. That’d be the end of the interview. Thank you so much for your time, Yomi…
Yomi: LOL. I hope I am not in trouble sha.

This brings me to the question, Are we likely to curb the possible risks of this sort of exposure by laying down rigid rules, measures and all? In my honest opinion, and as can be deduced from how my friend has handled his son’s exposure, I would say a NO!! It boils down to good parenting, upbringing, right orientation at the right time, constant discussion with the children on morals and values, without becoming overbearing.

But then, that’s just my position. What do you think? Please share!

Image Credit: Parents.com

3 thoughts on “Children, Mobile Devices and Internet Safety

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *