One of the issues that’s not brought up as often as it should, as Zimbabwe and similar countries are starting to get online at a more accelerated pace, is the issue of the protection of minors. We are all somehow consumed in the liberation of information that the internet brings and seem to want to ignore its obvious double-edged-sword nature.
The internet, without any deliberate action to keep children safe, is literally a minefield. The Internet is powerful because of the deep level to which it can satisfy a curious and adventurous mind. But it’s also dangerous to minors for the very same reason.
I frequently observe parents that are oblivious to this fact and offer their children unrestricted access to the internet. Without the knowledge of the parents, kids have access to everything from pornography, extremely violent material, to the strangest cult material you can imagine. There’s also the issue of questionable characters they befriend on social networks like Facebook and some they chat to on IM networks like Google Talk, MXit and WhatsApp.
It’s not it’s easy to monitor, let alone control the activity of minors on the internet. Not easy especially because kids usually know much more about the latest technologies that power the internet than parents do. Aren’t they the so-called digital natives? The parents, the digital migrants, are just learning, and like the proverbial old dogs, don’t have the curiosity and hunger to explore new stuff and know the internet for what it is.
It’s not easy but being aware helps. Being aware of what the internet is for starters. Then being aware of the tools available to keep the family safe.
Once in a while I bump into such helpful information. This week was one such good week. On Tuesday, on the Google homepage, instead of the usual product promotional links under the Google search field and buttons, Google put a link to its ‘Family Safety Center’ page. In the “Tips from parents at Google” section is a video I found quite informing. It’s by Vic Gundotra, the Senior Vice-President of Social Business at Google. Part of what he says in there, close to the end, is this:
It’s incredibly important for parents to stay involved. It’s a mistake to allow children to have unlimited, unmonitored access. Certainly, you wouldn’t leave your child alone in the middle of the city, and you should never do that on the internet.
Here’s the video: