When it comes to Internet safety we seem to finally have left the era of filtering and restricting behind us. Not many experts and instructors still try to increase youngster Internet safety by means of blocking content from the eyes of children and adolescents. In their place there is a growing movement of educators who aim instead to open up a dialogue between youngsters and adults on online experiences and to empower youngsters in gaining so-called soft skills. Beata Staszynska and I are part of this movement.
Unfortunately, the Internet safety focus nowadays lies mostly on teachers and students. Many programs support schools and their Umfeld in dealing with Internet-related issues, overlooking a very important group: parents. This is strange because parents experience the online behavior of their children every day. It is them who see their children using their mobile phone nonstop, and it is them who have the hard task of tearing their children away from games or other online activities.
What we need is the Internet equivalent of Jo Frost – a supernanny – for Internet issues. But this Internet supernanny has an ever harder task than the real Jo Frost. This Internet supernanny does not only have to deal with relations between parents and children that have turned sour, or even pathological, but also needs to deal with the lack of knowledge and experience about the online world and the fear of technology that many parents have and of which they feel ashamed.
Beata Staszynska and I, together with our Polish partners GCPU, have started meetings with parents to talk about their concerns regarding their children online. During the first session in March we listened to quite a few troubled parents who were complaining about their children’s compulsive online gaming. When asked what it is that their children are looking for in these games these parents had no answers.
Soon we’ll organize a meeting in which youngsters will present their favorite games to their parents and to the parents of other children. They will try to explain what it is that draws them to these games and what they would like parents to understand. We are not forcing youngsters to talk about their games – these youngsters want to talk about their games, especially to their parents. Youngsters in general very much want to talk with their parents about what they do and experience online. Rather, it is the parents who shy away from this. Hopefully this next meeting is the first step to creating an Internet supernanny, not as a person like Jo Frost who intervenes in people’s family settings, but as a framework for parents to overcome their Internet anxiety and for parents and children to boost their dialogue on online matters.