Year after year, technology is increasingly present in the daily lives of people, including children and adolescents. The growing use of electronic devices, internet access and social networks represents a disruption with respect to previous methods of learning and entertainment. Although these technologies provide a new world of opportunities to both the young and old, they also expose them to great risks.
In the digital age in which we live, it is essential to become aware of the importance of cybersecurity to guarantee the privacy and well-being of all users who use technologies, learning to use them ethically and responsibly.
In this article we will talk about the most significant risks to which children and adolescents are exposed when they use new technologies, as well as good practices to avoid these risks.
Most significant risks
New technologies, and in particular, social networks, are a great attraction for young people due to the capacity for self-expression, social connection and the great access to information offered by applications such as Instagram, TikTok or Twitter. Although these applications are born with positive purposes, the use that each user gives to social networks results in the existence of a multitude of risks, especially for young people. Among the best known risks, we find:
- Ciberbullying: It is a form of psychological harassment produced online, using digital media such as social networks, text messages, emails. etc Cyberbullying can manifest itself in a multitude of forms, such as insults or humiliation, threats, identity theft, or the spread of rumors or private information or content.
- Grooming: This term is understood as the action by an adult of establishing contact with a minor through the Internet, generally with the intention of sexual activity. Often, these users hide their true identity or age, adopting the behavior patterns of a user with the victim's age.
- Sexting: This practice, mostly carried out among young people, refers to the sending of sexual or erotic content through technological platforms. The risk of this practice lies in the total loss of control over the content that is shared, exposing users to the content ending up in unwanted places, either due to non-consensual dissemination, loss/theft of devices.
- Addiction: Often, growing up immersed in digital devices can lead to excessive use of them and the development of an addiction to technology. Under these circumstances, adolescents little by little lose the ability to manage their time with technological devices, causing them discomfort when they cannot use them. The development of children and adolescents under the excessive use of devices can cause social isolation or difficulties in establishing social relationships, delays in learning, problems in behavioral development, etc.
- Inappropriate content: The content that adolescents and children can access when adequate control is not established can seriously influence their development. Minors do not have the capacity to adequately interpret the information displayed on the Internet, so they may assume (wrongly) that certain content is positive and develop attitudes or behaviors based on what is observed.
Actions to promote online security and responsibility
Most of the measures that can be applied so that the interaction of children and adolescents with new technologies and the Internet is carried out in a safe and responsible manner have to do with the way in which those responsible communicate and educate minors, not both in computer skills.
Communication and education.
- It is necessary to foster a family environment in which to openly express the risks to which a user is exposed on the Internet and social networks, as well as the importance of online privacy, how to identify and avoid scams and how to behave in social networks.
- Strengthening empathy and respect, helping them understand the impact of words online and the impact their actions can have on other people's lives, is a challenge that requires a combination of patience, constant teaching and behavioral modeling. Educating about digital empathy involves showing them how online interactions affect feelings, self-esteem, and perceptions of others. Furthermore, it implies highlighting that each written word has real power, being able to generate joy, sadness, confidence or pain in those who receive it.
- Just as children and adolescents imitate behaviors they observe on social networks, they also come to imitate the behavior of the adults around them. Therefore, it is always recommended that parents/caregivers of the minor show responsible behavior online. Additionally, during the initial stages, it is recommended that children use the devices under adult supervision to ensure they understand how to navigate safely.
Parental control and security tools.
Communication and education of minors can be accompanied by measures to supervise and regulate the use of devices, to avoid risks such as addiction and access to inappropriate content.
Depending on the age of the minor and the harmful content to which they may be exposed, it is advisable to restrict access to websites or content that is considered inappropriate. This series of restrictions must be accompanied by an explanation of “why” so that they understand what the associated risk is.
The establishment of schedules and limits of use agreed upon with the minor allows us to reinforce trust with them as well as promote the balance between life with electronic devices and necessary daily activities such as rest time, physical activity or offline communication with others. people.
In summary, the convergence of education, open communication, supervision and the use of parental control tools becomes the comprehensive approach to promoting online safety and responsibility for young people. Collaboration between parents, educators and society in general is key to ensuring an online environment that is safe and beneficial for the development of children and adolescents in the digital age.