Agħfas hawn biex taqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti
With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, children and young people will have more free time. For some kids this will mean more time on the internet, catching up with friends, playing games or simply watching what their peers are posting online.
BeSmartOnline! (BSO) Malta gives some tips to make the best use of the net during the festive season.
How do we ensure children are not making excessive use of online media?
First we must establish what we mean by excessive use. BSO! Malta emphasizes this is not solely determined by the actual amount of time a child spends online, even though the duration does have an adverse effect on physical problems such as posture, neck, back and wrist injuries, obesity and also eyesight.
BSO! Malta urges parents to ask themselves WHEN their children are making use of online media and if this use is affecting them in other aspects of their lives:
- Family time – Does it take place during family time when children can interact with their family instead of looking down at their tablets, phones or computers?
- Sleep – Are children staying up later using the internet and waking up tired because of it?
- Hygiene – Is a child skipping a shower because s/he is hooked to a game or app online?
- Irritability – Are the kids on edge when they are not at their computer? Are they busy thinking about what they can be doing online? Do they get defensive if told to stop?
- Nightmares – Does the child dream about his/her gaming or computer use?
- Social interaction – Does it replace social activities the child could be enjoying?
The last point is a very important warning sign of a child (or adult) being addicted to online use. When using online media excessively, we tend to become more isolated and consistently sacrifice real-life relationships to preserve virtual ones.
Why is it so important to encourage balanced online use in children?
Resilience: By ensuring a child has a decent balance between offline and online use, we are enabling the child to be resilient and deal with real-life issues in an effective way. Children who spend more time interacting with people online than they do offline risk lacking the emotional intelligence and support system necessary to deal with issues such as bullying, both online and offline.
Self Esteem: Moreover these children may develop serious self-esteem issues due to the fact that the internet unfortunately portrays a very skewed view of life and children lack the experience and maturity to differentiate between what people post online vis-à-vis real life. This may lead them to view themselves in an overly negative manner when compared to what their peers post online.
Reputation: Furthermore the internet is a very volatile social space. If a child’s online reputation is dented, and they do not have a strong offline social life, it will be much harder for them to deal with the issue. It is important to realise that teens take great care in curating their online persona perfectly in the way they want it to be, and if this is impacted then their self-confidence can take a massive hit.
What can us as parents do to help?
Spotting the signs is one thing, but what can we do to help? BSO recommends the following tips to address excessive online use in children:
- Provide alternatives to children
It is important to show kids there is more to life than spending time on computers. Reading books, playing board games, inviting friends over, cooking together and going out are all sound alternatives to online use.
- Lead by example
Naturally, providing alternatives to children whilst we, as adults are stuck to our devices all day is not ideal. Yes, for some, computer use may not be for fun, but if we are totally honest with ourselves there are times when some of us also get carried away with our devices and social media. It is important for us parents to unplug too and show children and teens that we are also making an effort towards balanced online use.
- Educate our children about the risks
It is imperative for us to talk to our children about the risks of online use. Awareness is key here and even though we may think our children are not listening, it is better to say something in the hope that something sticks than saying nothing at all because we think our children will not listen.
It can happen to any of us
It is also important for us as parents to keep our feet on the ground and realise that excessive internet use can easily happen. Internet use is a form of escapism. Whether it is through video games, social media or online chatting, the internet is a ‘safe’ haven for children where they are not told what to do, feel in total control and thus may very easily get addicted.
Be Smart Online is an EU Funded Project set up in 2010. Its main objectives include: raising awareness on the safe use of internet, offering reporting facilities for internet abuse through an online platform, and giving adequate support to the respective victims.
For more information visit the BeSmartOnline! Facebook page and website. Should you come across any online illegalities such as paedophilia and racism, this can be reported anonymously through this anonymous online platform.