I love technology! 25 years ago, as instructional leader for an Information Technology (IT) organisation, I felt empowered to initiate an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) curriculum in schools. We started with basic computer languages and got the students excited with the capabilities of a machine. I was just as excited as them! Today, I’m amazed at how far we have come. Technology and our lives are inextricably linked. Most of our communications are via social media and electronically. In fact, technology has invaded our lives.
Airports and other locations known for long waiting periods are my favourite places to observe people. As I wait at the airport, I notice a young child captivated by the electronic device he’s using. His parents seem lost in their own. This is a common sight, isn’t it? What is in this gadget that can retain the attention of this young child and adult alike for hours on end? I continue observing as the child clicks on one video, a list appears on the right panel suggesting more. Innocently, the child clicks on the next and the next oblivious to the fact of the dangers lurking in that small screen. The parents are oblivious too and I can almost read their thoughts – My child is engaged. My child is busy. My child is safe. He is right in front of my eyes. Yet the repercussions and the impact on this young mind could be serious. What if he lands on a wrong page? What if he is drawn towards inappropriate content?
My attention turns towards a group of teenagers lost in their phones. They don’t seem to want to interact with each other. They prefer their screens. I can see them interact with their devices as if interacting with a person! Suddenly one boy positions his camera, readies himself and pounces on his friend. A scuffle ensues resulting in an embarrassing moment for one and a triumphal moment for the other who has managed to overpower and subdue his friend and uploads the image to social media. He laughs as comments start pouring in. I think about their future selves and wonder if they will ever have to explain this photograph to a prospective employer. Was it really worth it?
Surviving the digital invasion
This digital invasion has impacted our lives from all sides. Every day, whether we want to or not, most of us contribute to a growing portrait of who we are online – a portrait that is probably more public than most of us assume. It is essential for this reason that we become aware of what kind of trail are we leaving and what are the possible effects of this on our lives.
Staying smart and alert is a skill. Critical thinking and decision making are also important in the digital world, as decisions are made at every point. It’s about making the right choices- clicking the right button, keying the right words and opting to read the right text and choosing to ignore/delete the unwanted text. It’s important to understand unethical behaviour and its impact on all of us. After all, we’re all digital citizens and becoming aware of and teaching good digital citizenship skills to children helps them connect their everyday actions with their choices in a digital society.
Some general tips to be safe are:
- start with creating complex and unique passwords rather than using the same one for multiple accounts
- develop and boost network safety and invest in safety software
- always use a firewall to block unauthorised access. Consciously stay away from careless clicking and entering unknown sites and web spaces.
- share only validated information
- be well informed and keep ourselves updated on the latest scams
- set parental controls and develop monitoring mechanisms to keep an eye on children’s browsing. More importantly, have a conversation with your child about ‘screen-time’ and issues around randomly accessing information.