Posted on 8 March 2017 by Myros Allegre
Online Safety and the Importance of Building Digital Resilience
In today’s society, the online world impacts every child’s existence. With the reality of growing up in such a technological age, parents strive to protect their children from the potential risks and dangers they might encounter online.
Ofcom reports that tablets and mobile phones are the most popular devices used by kids to go online. This makes it more challenging for parents to have control over what their kids access when online. However, building your child’s ability to combat online threats and persevere is the best method to deal with the inevitable risk of a digital presence.
How Much Control?
It isn’t possible make a child’s online experience 100% safe. Social media is the center of the social engagement of tweens and teens, and while they generally tend to socialize with their real-life friends when online, they also have access to strangers.
Your children’s friends may also pose a risk: Parents can set filters and controls on each device their child uses, but their child’s friends may not have that level of protection. There is little a parent can do to monitor and control another child’s digital usage.
Building Digital Resilience
It is true that there is plenty of questionable content out there, from X-rated videos to forums full of hurtful, anonymous comments. Since there is no way to fully protect kids from being exposed to such sites, the best course of action is to build their digital resilience.
Digital resilience is a child’s ability to handle online stress, risk, and harm and to bounce back from these unpleasant online experiences. In order to learn how to manage these types of situations and bounce back from them, children must be allowed, within reason, to experience them. Without the firsthand knowledge, these children will not have the opportunity to learn how to manage risk.
Learning digital resilience is an ongoing process that involves children, parents, and the community. The best way to build digital resistance is to take a three-pronged approach, as follows:
- Preventing and reducing exposure to risk whenever possible.
- Focusing on resources that help foster resilience in children (e.g. online safety education programs).
- Supporting the natural ability of children to adapt, while strengthening the relationships children have with mentors, honoring cultural traditions, and encouraging healthy cognitive development.
Fully protecting a child from the harsh realities of the online world is impossible. Building a child’s digital resilience is the single best way a child can learn to cope with these realities so they can enjoy a healthy, vibrant childhood.