Saturday, October 5, 2013

Computers & Smartphones: Safe for Children and Young Adults?

My nephew Jay using my Mom's laptop.
We all know that the world we live in today is a world of technology. Each day, more and more children and young adults are using technological devices such as computers, smartphones, laptops, iPads, and other tablets. The usage of technology by children and young adults has its pros and cons. Research suggests that some of the worries and cons to children and young adults that use the internet via computer or mobile device are the following concerns: privacy issues, bullying, pedophiles, spam, chain letters, withdrawal from the real world, and a false sense of security. Some of the pros concerning children and young adults that use electronic devices are the following: sense of keeping in touch with real-life friends, able to talk to and  bring up sensitive topics to their parents that the children/young adults could not do so in a face-to-face setting, cellphones are a quick and easy way to communicate and negotiate plans such as informing parents that the child or teen will be late getting home, and once again a false sense of security so that the child or teen can push the limits on where he or she wishes to go. Sonia Livingstone states the following about children and teens that use social networking sites, “social networking is time-wasting and socially isolating, and at worst it allows pedophiles to groom children in their bedroom or sees teenagers lured into suicide pacts whiles parents think they [the children] are doing their homework. (2008)” Sonia Livingstone has an excellent point. There have been cases where children and teens where solicited online to do sexual favors for pedophiles, weather sending inappropriate pictures or even worse such as meeting them in person. Also, there have been cases where children and young teens have made suicide pacts online. Wolak, Finkhelhor, and Mitchell state the following statistic concerning sex offenders soliciting youths, “Between 2006 and 2006, there was a 21% increase in arrests of offenders who solicited youth online for sex. (2009)” 21 % is a big increase when we are talking about the safety of our children and teenagers. Even if it was just one child or teen that was solicited for sex online by a pedophile, that is still one too many. As far as the suicide pacts go, there have been some occurrences where teens and young adults have gathered online to discuss suicide pacts. Some have even been successful with their mission. Parents have to be more proactive in their child and/or teen’s online endeavors. Kerry Devitt and Debi Roker states the following about the positives and negatives of children and teenagers using mobile phones, “the findings show that young people and parents see mobiles as a key way for families to keep in touch, and to monitor and ensure young people’s safety. However, some participants felt there was a downside to this, in relation to some young people either withdrawing into their own social worlds, or having a false feeling of security as a result of having a mobile. (2009)” Mobile phones do allow teens and young adults to fast and effectively communicate to their parents to let them know where they are at and how late they will stay out at night with a significant other or with friends. However, the participants are accurate in their assumption of teens and children getting addicted to the internet via mobile phones or computers while becoming oblivious to what events are going on around them. For example, young adults such as sixteen year olds that are able to drive have a higher risk in getting into car accidents due to texting while behind the wheel. (www.stopthetextstopthewrecks.org) The young adults become so dependent on their mobile devices that even while driving they think they must be on their phone. When they are on their phones, their attention is no longer on driving; therefore, causing some mistakes. There have been some occurrences where some young adults have died or killed others by texting and driving. Even though the mobile device does allow children and young adults to contact their parents, caregivers, or police in case of an emergency; however, the child or young adult may not be able to get to their phone in time during an emergency situation. As mentioned previously, young teenagers can get into car accidents while using their mobile phones. In a situation like that, the phone is actually the cause of the accident. Also, in Devitt and Roker’s article, they mentioned that mugging was a concern for both the young people and their parents. Both have concerns that people will see the youngsters with their cellphones and come up and rob them of their cellphones. (2009) In a case like this, the cellphone would not help the young adult get out of the bad situation but yet again be the cause. The use of technology by young people is not all bad. With the right boundaries set and proper supervision, the internet can connect a young person to a vast array of learning and positive communication. Students of all ages benefit from the seemingly unending resources that the internet can connect them to. The use of mobile communication by children and young people also has its advantages. In addition to being able reach a child, the parents can also use tracking technologies on most modern phones to keep tabs on their children. Technology can also be a good way to get young children interested in learning. There are games you can download on to your smartphone or tablet and even tablet type devices designed for children that are preloaded with software that is aimed at learning while playing. These devices come with parental controls that limit the amount of time a child can use the device as well as filter content during online activities. Just about anything you put into a child’s hands can be dangerous if it is misused or abused and technology is no different. There will always be threats from online, and young people will always try to get away with something if given the chance. However, with proper supervision threats can be avoided and with the right rules and boundaries set, technology aided misbehavior can be kept to a minimum.

References:


Devitt, K., & Roker, D. (2009). The Role of Mobile Phones in Family Communication. Children & Society, 23(3), 189-202. doi:10.1111/j.1099-0860.2008.00166.x

 Livingstone, S. (2008). Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: teenagers' use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self-expression. New Media & Society, 10(3), 393-411.

 Wolak, J., Finkhelhor, D., and Mitchell, K. (2009). Trends in Arrests of Online Predators. Crimes against Children Research Center. http://cola.unh.edu/ccrc/trends-arrests-online-predators

www.stopthetextstopthewrecks.org