Sean Lyons is the Chief Technology Officer at Netsafe, an organisation that supports all New Zealanders with online safety. He gave an engaging presentation that painted a picture of the Internet, not as a scary place, but as one that is an embedded as part of teenager’s world and one that is important to be part of in a positive way. ICT is now the norm. Some of the main points of his presentation are summarised here:
- Society has changed. Access to all information is now at our fingertips. The world is now flatter and access to the other side of the world is readily available. The control of information is no longer there, it isn’t mediated in the same way as information used to be.
- Social capital – extremely important to today’s young people. Building social capital is what makes young people do a lot of things that older people don’t really understand. Young people build social capital by being connected and getting engaged in popular online activities. The idea of social capital explains why students get involved in certain activities on Tumblr or AskFM.
- Cybersafety requires peer support. Lots of young people know about technology but they don’t know how to look after themselves on technology – it results in disengagement, because the advice they are getting comes from their peers because the older people are not part of their world. This explains how teenagers often go through a period of disengagement from talking to adults because they do not see adults as experiencing their world – there’s no common ground.
- Cyberbullying – 1 in 5 children in NZ have children in NZ have experienced cyber bullying in the last year, and 60% of cyber bullies have been bullied themselves. How do we break that cycle?
- Historically we’ve approached online use by providing more restrictions, we allow less risk and we keep kids safer. This approach has been proven to not work.
- Today the approach that does work is to allowing young people more opportunities, so that they encounter more challenges, they will become more capable.
- This is creating a digital parenting paradox. It relies on providing the right kind of support, guides alongside those young people who are knowledgeable and who have strategies to deal with those challenges.
- Use a parents’ guide to cybersafety – a resource for parents to help them navigate online safety with their children. There are activities on this site that will help conversation starters which can open up discussion about online safety in a positive way. Not challenging young people on their actions, but instead asking “what would you do if this happened?” “Has this ever happened to your friends?”
There is a generational digital divide which means that parents do not necessarily feel equipped to help their children in the online environment. However, our young people need help and we need to find positive ways to being involved to help them face the challenges of the online environment, navigate the opportunities that it presents and help them to become more capable online users.