A boy wears glasses and smiles as he holds up his tablet provided by Save the Children to continue his education at home. Photo Credit: Miguel Angel Arreategui Rodriguez
Building a Safe and Positive Digital World for Kids is Possible
by Pina Jabbari, Senior Managing Director, Global Corporate Partnerships
One of the many joys I’ve found through parenthood is seeing the world through the eyes of my kids. It’s fascinating how a child’s unencumbered view can give old things new light.
Hearing my kids’ perspectives after watching a movie for the first time that I’ve seen ten times, taking them to places my family frequented when I was their age and even performing mundane daily chores together have sparked moments of inspiration and reflection.
A few days ago, my daughters were playing a game online and I asked them to teach me how to play. We laughed so hard together – mostly at my struggle to excel in the game they already knew so well.
Seeing the online world through their eyes triggered a reality check. I always thought I was a digital native, but maybe I am not. Seeing their online world through my eyes suddenly felt very disruptive.
Children have so much to gain through modern tech devices and internet access. They can have fun socializing and playing games. They can learn, no flashcards needed. Many schools are using online portals for math facts, sight words and reading.
That’s what my daughters’ experience when they are online. While I didn’t exactly learn how to play the game, I realized that being online is largely a positive experience for them. And I think I’ve done my part as their mom to make it that way by configuring the built-in parental control settings to limit who they can speak to, what content they can see, which apps they can download and how much screen time they’re allowed.
So, why did it take seeing the internet through their eyes to show me the redeeming parts of it?
Every generation seems to be skeptical, if not fearful, of things that weren’t around when they were growing up. The internet is one of those things, and it’s not irrational to have reservations about its use by children. It’s the most common place where recruitment for sex trafficking occurs, with 40% of victims recruited online. Teens report online bullying and harassment as a major problem and 59% say they’ve experienced it. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says their analysis of child sexual abuse materials rose 15,000% from 2005 to 2020 – seemingly in line with the prolific spread of personal computers and internet access in American homes.
Parents are right to approach kids’ internet access with caution, but it is possible to build a digital world with and for children that is safe and positive.
This #SaferInternetDay, I’m proud to be part of a global team at Save the Children that is doing just that. We are working to:
- better protect kids from abuse, exploitation, bullying, harassment and extremism when they are online
- increase their participation in digital inclusion, skill-building and influencing regulatory change
- ensure that their mental wellbeing is not at risk
It is a privilege to raise children with broad access to devices and the internet, but as a parent, it’s a constant challenge of balancing the opportunities the internet provides and its potential harm. A digital world that is safe and positive for children is possible if we all work together. Kids, parents, governments, the private sector and communities around the world all have a role to play. And our success will help kids realize their full potential and be better equipped to thrive in the global economy.
Join us in our fight to make sure that every child – no matter where they live or what their background is – can use the internet safely in ways that contribute to their participation and well-being.
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