Article first appeared in the Portugal Resident.
As we head into the halfway point of summer, our children have been drilled about overexposure to the sun. What about their exposure to media? A recent survey of teens showed that over 75% own smartphones, and a startling 52% describe themselves as constantly connected to the internet.
Our children can, at any time, or indeed anywhere they have access to the internet, watch the latest reality TV, stream films, download interactive apps, share photos, be gaming with someone in a different country that they have never met face to face, be posting their every movement on a media site or be involved in video calls.
How overexposed are they to the world of media that we are all now immersed in? And what, in reality, are the implications?
I am not just thinking about obvious devices such as smartphones, computers, gaming devices and iPads. What about all the internet-connected devices in your houses that listen for data? For example, how many of us now have an ‘Alexa’ or equivalent internet-connected device that listens to our household?
What are the exposure implications of being able to connect at any time, in any place and by everyone?
Networks and devices have evolved dramatically in recent years. They are no longer simply about keeping in touch with friends and family – the influence of social media is far reaching. It is shaping politics, businesses, world culture, impacting education, jobs and careers; indeed almost everything!
Fundamentally, our concern as parents and educators must be how that impacts our children, their perception of themselves and on the world that they live in.
We, therefore, have an obligation to educate our children and ourselves with regard to the positive and negative impacts of the multimedia world that we are all immersed in, and address the distinct lack of privacy that this brings with it so that we might navigate it as informed users.
One must acknowledge how important multimedia is now in our children’s social and creative everyday lives, and the far-reaching positive impacts that it has. It is a source of entertainment and fun, a way of making friends, developing knowledge and understanding. Additionally, it enables collaborative learning, the development of creativity, the ability to connect both locally and globally, and explore a vast array of information.
At a time when even children as young as 11 years old are commenting about how nothing is private anymore, it is important, as families, that we have an open dialogue with our children about the scale of multimedia usage, even if it means that we have to update ourselves!
We should encourage discussion about how we talk with people online and encourage only positive comments, reiterate and talk about the implications of social media usage, for example, how a very embarrassing picture can be taken, uploaded, tagged and, therefore, be available for eternity and with all the implications that may have. Talk together about retaining privacy, what can be uploaded and what should never be!
A word of caution to us as parents too. I know that my own daughter has talked to me about this when I have wanted to share her news. It is hers to share, not mine to expose via my choice of media! Much is being talked about parents and the rise and risks of ‘sharenting’ – the phenomenon of parents putting information about their children online.
For many parents, their child’s trackable digital footprint begins before they are born with ultrasound scans posted, tweets about due dates, uploads of expensive birthday parties, embarrassing baby/teenage photos to name but a few.
All these incidents remain in cyberspace forever, retrievable, for example, by potential employers or universities when your children are 18.
We must ask ourselves: are we overexposing our own children? When do we think that they are old enough to give their consent to information about themselves being posted online?
Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master
– Christian Louis Lange