Today, the world is connected through the internet, and with the help of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, there has been a quantum leap in the usage and integration of technology in almost all spheres of life. Given these developments in social spheres, just as much as the internet is a source of information and knowledge, it is also a great source of content which is not suitable for viewing by the young minds – there is a good side, as well as a bad side to the internet. Moreover, with the ongoing pandemic, and the innovation big bang, technology has further infused with human life, and it is likely to remain this way for an unforeseeable future. Given this backdrop, it becomes natural that using the internet must be within some kind of boundaries, and there are numerous reasons to support this stance; for instance, cyber threats to privacy, access to pornographic material and even cyberbullying. Hence, it has become imperative that the internet is to be used with great caution.
Given this backdrop, the present article will shed light on numerous ways that parents may exercise control over the activities of underage children.
One thing that is very important to understand by all the parties that make use of the internet is what is called “Responsible Online Behaviour”. Internet is open territory, without boundaries, and if unsupervised, children can wilder around the internet into the areas which are not suitable for viewing. In this regard, it is advised that no one should involve themselves in irresponsible online behaviour such as plagiarism, spamming, hacking and even viewing inappropriate sites. Plagiarism means to use another’s literary idea and pass it on as one’s own, in the world of academics this is regarded as a grave matter as it gives rise to cheating and other unethical literary practices. Similarly, spamming is another threat that comes from whereby spammers may send emails that include chain letters, get-rich-quick schemes, easy loans, weight-loss in 10 days and what not. However, children are advised not to believe any of such marketing gimmicks and rather ignore such messages. Lastly, hacking is also a grave threat whereby important information such as credit card numbers, home addressed etc can be hacked and used inappropriately. All of these threats combined, the internet can be a grave threat and for that matter, one must use the internet responsibly.
The most common method to exercise controls on the use of the internet by children is through password protection. Almost all operating systems and the applications within the operating system are equipped with the feature of password protection. With the help of this feature, children are most likely to request their parents to grant access to the device by entering the password. This way parents can naturally know that their children are using any particular device. In this regard, Screen Time Team suggest that children should be explained the rules about the use of the internet. Moreover, parents should create multiple layers of security as devices usually have three layers of security: Operating-system level controls, Individual app controls, and third-party parental controls. For that matter, parents may also use passwords that are hard to guess, difficult to type. Together, if all of these measures are applied with diligence, chances are that children access to the internet will be discouraged.
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Screen Time Limits
Moving on, another great way to exercise parental controls is by applying screen-time limits. Screen-time, as the name suggests, is how much time does a child spend viewing the screen. According to Avast, limiting screens is very important as it plays an important role in the development of a child’s brain. A human brain undergoes important developments in the initial years. If children spend too much time on screen and avoid human interaction and physical play, then the brain might not develop neural networks which are an important part of a healthy brain. Also, screen time limits vary according to the age of the child, and according to World Health Organisation (WHO), children under the age of 0-2 should not view the screen at all, children from 2-5 years can view the screen for maximum one hour, children within the age of 6-12 may view the screen for 2 hours, and children from 12 – 18 may view the screen more than 2 hours. However, the parents should be mindful of the content as well. All in all, screen-time limits encourage the good social and psychological development of a child.
Filtering and Blocking Content/ Monitoring Tools and Application
Moving on, filtering and blocking of the content is another technique that should be exercised by the parents. However, that will require device-management literacy on the part of the parents. Filtering and blocking of the content can be done for both the outgoing content, which is often restricting children’s private information going online, as well as online content such as pornographic material and inappropriate material. Filtering and blocking of the content can be done manually as well as with the help of software and applications. Software often use specially made algorithms based on keywords, URLs, database of the objectional website, and block the content which is inappropriate for minors. While applications and operating systems have an inbuilt capacity to detect and block inappropriate content. In this regard, some of the hot tools are listed by Safewise, TechRadar, parental control now, and famishare.
To sum up our discussion, indeed the internet is a great source of information and knowledge; however, at the same time, it has its dark side as well. Educationists are slowly turning away from physical classes formats to online class formats, but they tend to neglect the harmful effect of using the internet by the children. For that matter, this article elaborated few essential pointers to educate its readers. First, the user must understand what does responsible online behaviour means, second, parents can use techniques like password-protection, limiting screen-time, filtering and blocking of content, and monitoring tools/ application or software. Together with these tools and ideas, parents can structure multiple layers of security whereby children can be discouraged from using excessive internet. All in all, the internet must be used with care and within boundaries.
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