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Safer Internet Day 2016: Examining the power of the Internet

By: Tavleen Chahal, Guest Youth Blogger

Tavleen Chahal is an 18-year-old, first-year university student from the Greater Toronto Area.

Safer Internet Day is on February 9th.

In today’s ever-changing digital world it can be difficult to unplug at times. Safer Internet Day is a day that prompts us to re-evaluate our relationship to our online activities. Whether it be scrolling down your Instagram feed or reading the latest article in The Huffington Post, it seems as if people of all ages are fixated on all things digital. Many may argue that with current and upcoming technological advancements, we will live entirely in an online world so we should adjust sooner than later. Others, like myself, may not be in favour of these changes but acknowledge that they are inevitable.

The Effects of the Internet on Youth and Children

An issue that presents itself while we are shifting our lives online is how it affects children and youth. From my personal experience, I’ve noticed that toddlers know how to use an iPad before they can formulate sentences and receive the latest gadgets every year for their birthday. Children, upon being introduced to technology earlier in their lives, become dependent on it - ultimately lacking basic interpersonal skills. I got to witness this first-hand as I worked as a camp counselor for the past two summers. The kids did not know how to play cards, board games, or tag; it was frightening to see that they didn’t know how to take turns during a game or display good sportsmanship. In my opinion, usage should be controlled so that they still have time to be kids.

Safety on the Internet

It’s wonderful that children have access to all the useful tools the internet has to offer.  However, children and parents should know that internet use comes with dangers. Parents can block websites and put passwords on their devices, but children are often able to figure these out. They can easily access YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, or an inappropriate website and are free to search what their curious minds desire. This is where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child comes into play. As stated by Article 17, it is the responsibility of the parent(s) to ensure they keep their children safe while browsing the online world.

Today’s children are the ones who will be leading our up-and-coming digital world so it is important that they are taught safe internet skills so they practice them throughout their lives.

Editorial Note:

UNICEF Canada works within Canada to ensure children benefit from their rights as protected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This includes the right to freedom of expression and to freedom of information; to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice. This also includes the right to appropriate guidelines in the best interests of the child for protection from harmful information or material. Parents can teach their children to be safe online by having open discussions, encouraging positive online activities and sharing resources, like those available at http://mediasmarts.ca.

Many young people, particularly those in isolated areas, see the internet as one of the most powerful avenues through which they can have their voices heard. UNICEF Canada believes that when used appropriately, the internet can and should be used to amplify the voices of young people on the issues that matter most to them. All children have the right to express their views freely, and no child is too far to be heard.

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