This is a shocking finding for me when I spoke before a group of parents yesterday in a private school in Las Pinas, a city south of Manila. Shocking because I could not imagine how we could expect parents to deal with children in today’s world of information technology when they themselves have not even heard of Yahoo!. How can we expect them to manage the cyber activities of their children? Or, protect them from the dangers of cyberspace? Or, equip their children to use with discretion this very open and worldwide interconnection of computers and telephones?
If parents are to manage teenage kids on the use of computers, the Internet, blogs, emails, games, and so on, they should have at least a conceptual understanding of what these are all about. My most important recommendation? Be in cyberspace yourself so you know what your kids are doing online. And then you will acquire the strong ground and sense for dipping into this virtual world they are deep into. Your confidence of talking to your children about the dangers of cyberspace, for example, will come from you own knowledge of it. It is quite impossible to talk to your children about swimming when you have not even wet your toes in a pool or in the sea. Plain and simple common sense.
It is no excuse for a 50-year-old mother or father to be technology-resistant, because there is no excuse for relating with his or her 15-year-old son or daughter who just opened a Friendster account. Worst, if something terrible had happened already. Talk about cyberbullying!
Age is no matter in acquiring new knowledge and skill, especially if it is material in helping our children develop good judgment and sound decision-making. If it’s Magic Cards they play, know about it or even learn to play it. If it’s basketball they enjoy, know the rules of the game. It pays to engage yourself and your children in conversations about a game, a film, a book, or food. This way you gain insights into your children’s way of thinking, reasoning, judgment, and values.
It is good sense that even before we start disciplining our children, we should start at knowing what we are disciplining about.
By the way, studies have shown that children 16 and below should have no business joining an Internet social network service. It’s too dangerous for children this young as they still lack a sense of judgment in dealing with the challenging situations that they could encounter in a virtual society. In fact, the US Congress is trying to ban Friendstar, MySpace, Facebook, Yahoo360, Essembly, and other social networks from high schools and libraries. See the bill.
There are many more other issues affecting our children and cyberspace. But the most urgent one that requires our attention is that of protecting them and keeping them safe from all the dangers of the Internet.