Done Right, Internet Use Can Increase Learning and Skills

Global Kids Online has launched a report regarding "Done right, internet use can increase learning and skills". The report includes the finding from 11 member countries, which can be classified in terms of income. Among the children in the middle-income countries, home internet access in notably lower than those of the children living in the upper-middle-income and high-income countries (even among internet-using population).

Done Right, Internet Use Can Increase Learning and Skills

The consequences of this- in constraining children’s opportunities to access information, to interact socially and develop digital skills and more – has been evident throughout the various sections of the report.

In addition to making cross-national comparisons, the report has also included two major sources of inequality among children, i.e. gender and age, along with the socio-economic status.

The report held wide research for the matter, in which they recognized various different challenges and solutions, the solutions which again face challenges while implementation.

1st research displayed, ONLINE OPPORTUNITIES. When and how does the use of internet (and associated online, digital and networked technologies) contribute positively to children’s lives, providing opportunities for them to benefit in diverse ways and contribute to their well-being?

2nd research, ONLINE RISK. When and how is the use of internet (and associated online, digital and networked technologies) problematic in children’s lives, amplifying the risks of harm that may undermine their well-being? This is a growing concern, posing serious challenges for states and the parents in their efforts to protect children.

"Children need to spend time online to learn how to navigate the digital environment, even if this means being exposed to some level of risk. This is how children learn to navigate the offline world, so why would online be different?" said Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, research lead on Children & Digital Technology at UNICEF Innocent and co-author of the report. "If parents are too restrictive, this might leave their children unprepared for the future. The most important thing is that adults are available and ready to support children when they need it."

The findings suggest that for younger children, entertainment and social activities are appealing first steps when first venturing online. Whether this leads to the development of digital skills and beneficial online activities – rather than, as many fear, to a narrow or problematic absorption in game playing alone – may depend less on the individual child than on the family and digital culture that surrounds her or him.

Social interaction activities are also highly appealing to children, as shown by the survey findings in all countries.

Problematically, creative and civic engagement activities tend to be limited to a minority of children: most children undertake neither, even though these very opportunities have been much heralded as the promise of the digital age.

While the term ‘risk’ contains negative connotations, it is not always assumed to cause harm. For example, children may find themselves in risky situations like talking to strangers online, but just as this may lead to bullying or to grooming attempts, it may also result in the positive outcome of a child gaining a friend. Furthermore, learning to deal with uncertainty and manage online risks can build a child’s resilience.

While it may be tempting to add up these findings and conclude that surely all children have encountered online risks, our analysis shows that some children encounter multiple risks, like hate speech, sexual content, suicide content, etc., while others remain risk-free.

This makes it an urgent priority to identify and support children whose offline and online experiences are relatively riskier. It is also vital to understand why children’s digital experiences are so diverse. The risk of potential harms linked to the internet is considerable and growing.

At individual, social, and the country level, the Global Kids Online has come up with the hypothesis, explaining how the present data revel the vulnerability and resilience factors at that operate at each level.

While with all the online risks and opportunities that internet provides at the same time, it is equally important to bring about a balance among both (risks and the opportunities). “Instead of worrying about how long children spend online, Global Kids Online research suggests that parents should engage positively with their children’s digital world and discuss with them the specific content and contact risks they may encounter, so that children can gain resilience and thrive,” said Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at LSE and co-author of the report.

In distinguishing parental enabling mediation from parental restrictive mediation, the report has shown that restrictive parenting (limiting or banning online activities) tends to reduce children’s online opportunities and digital skills, while enabling mediation – which guides and supports the child’s online activities – is beneficial in supporting opportunities as well as slightly reducing risk exposure in most countries.

Although internet access is not a right in itself, there I growing recognition of its importance in mediating children’s rights in digital age. The differentiating factors like age, gender, country, for the most parts, not only shape their online activities, digital skill and encounter with online risks.

As the researches for the report shows, considerably less than half of internet-using children in each country report doing at least three of the following online activities at least weekly: learning something new; searching for information; looking for resources; looking for news; or looking for health information.

While the indicator used could be varied, this is not a high level of information seeking overall, and so points to the need for more support – whether from school, parents or digital providers – to encourage children to benefit fully from the digital world.

The report has argued that as the children are facing unprecedented online risks and opportunities, the parents are required to understand the nature of these risks and likelihood that children feel upset as the result to their exposure to such risks.

With coming onto the conclusion of this whole summarized report, there are increasing in access to online networks and services, by individuals and households in many counties. The report identifies that specific steps are needed for the betterment of the children’s guidelines, and what is needed to look into for their best interest varying from county to country. The policymakers need to have a balanced and integrated approach for children’s online exposure without hindering their growth and opportunity benefits. An approach that that get along with children, at school, with teachers and also parents. (This thought process and work frame goes along also in case of India, being a diverse country with large number of young internet users).

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