When the internet made its debut, very few people understood how it worked. For that reason, most individuals had little control over the types of content they saw and even put out. It was safe to ascribe a fair extent of human behavioural blame to the internet. The story is different today: there is full awareness and much more control over content ownership and consumption.
As a result of its intoxicating nature, there is a group of people who need to tread extra lightly in this head-spinning world – children.
The internet is not the only thing that has changed about the world, but it is one thing that has changed the world. Value and belief systems have evolved. These trends have, in turn, birthed a new parenting style for many. Situations that previously posed as a big deal barely hold water today; unregulated internet access and sleepovers with ‘cool’ friends are but a fraction of this new age’s childhood benefits.
But what is sauce for the goose is not always sauce for the gander. These luxuries are presenting parents and children with the shorter end of the stick.
The recent unfortunate sex tape involving children aged 10 to 13 has left me, and many others, disturbed. The mishap has begged the question of what these children have been exposed to.
The scenario is all too familiar; parents are busy with work, and often too tired to engage with their children. Nobody has the time to explain why the earth is round. All that takes is a Google search with thousands of results happy to answer that. The child’s joy knows no bounds. There is no need to seek answers from parents who would give half-interesting acknowledgements when the internet will respond and even give extra suggestions.
The question is: what else flirts with the child’s mind?
It is no secret that children are curious cats. When their questions are unanswered, they will find answers elsewhere. While the internet provides a questionable source of knowledge, one begins to wonder just how much knowledge a child should be exposed to from there. There is often a lack of judgement and danger awareness that only comes with age and experience. Is a life-damaging exploit going to be the wake-up call for parents that they desperately need?
How can these children be protected? Having open conversations about the internet, stranger dangers and their online activities is a good start. When they understand that their naivety makes them prey to predators, they stand a better chance of being protected. Also, registering a Gmail account with the correct age and having it linked to the Google family link lets you protect them from adult content replete on the internet.
Satellite TVs also offer parental locks to enable parents and guardians to control the kind of content their children access.
It is easy to argue a child’s moral decadence does not only come from the internet. However, a huge portion of the blame falls on parents. Associations with friends, the environment, and other social factors are also elemental in this quicksand of questionable moral standards. But these friends also come from families.
While parents cannot control who or what the child interacts with 24/7, they can influence it to some extent. A family is the smallest unit of society. It is from there that values get formed and shaped before interaction with the outside world. A school or a church can only do so much – the primary responsibility of raising and protecting a child needs to come from the home.
Explaining how to think and act in a healthy way about what they see can raise an open-minded and balanced child. One parent cannot change the world, but collectively, every parent can.
Claire Mom is a Nigerian journalist notable for her advocacy for women’s and children’s rights.