Copyright 2011 or Lyons
Wednesday 20th of March 2019
Issue 3042 / zero cents

Emotionally Safe Use of the Internet and Technology

Posted by on March 19th, 2012 |

Dharun Ravi, who was convicted of using a webcam to spy on his roommate, was incredibly computer savvy. But not yet emotionally mature enough to understand the implication that technology can have on our lives. Through his knowledge of the Internet, he was able to observe his roommate engaged in homosexual activities. Through his use of social media, he was able to project his thoughts and feelings not just to friends, but anyone with access to his Twitter page.

Although this is a tragedy for Ravi, his late roommate, Tyler Clementi, their families and Rutgers University, it is also an opportunity to talk with your children about technology, the Internet and how to use them. One of the challenges parents face when talking to their children about technology, is that young people are often more computer savvy than their parents. It’s difficult to keep up with the rapid changes in technology and children are often a few steps ahead of their parents.

There are many guides for safe internet use which include ideas such as having the computer in a common area, using parental controls, knowing your child’s password and limiting time on the computer. The emotional effects of technology use are discussed less often. Here are some guidelines and talking points for emotionally safe Internet and computer use for children and teens:

1) Children (and adults) often say things through text, email or social networking that they would never say to someone’s face. The lack of an immediate reaction means that people can be emotionally detached. If we had to see the pain in someone else’s face, we probably wouldn’t send that text or email to begin with. Remind your child that they should NEVER say anything via technology that they wouldn’t say to a person’s face.

2) Children (and adults) sometimes don’t remember that anything that is put on the Internet can be either passed along or reach an unintentional recipient. A good deal of cyber bullying can come in the form of texts or emails being passed along. Remind your child that anything that is put in writing can be passed along.

3) The relatively anonymous nature of the Internet can breed a false sense of security. Children often don’t realize that their movements on the Internet as well as deleted texts or emails can all be tracked and retrieved. In the Ravi case, computer savvy as he is, he attempted to cover his tracks, but was caught which was considered tampering with the evidence.

4) What if your child is the recipient of on-line or cyber bullying? First of all, acknowledge the pain that your child is experiencing. Sometimes if the bullying takes place over the Internet, it can be more painful than if it was face to face. Your child may have the urge to retaliate on-line. It’s important to discourage this as it can only make things worse (your child’s response may be forwarded to classmates or others.) If the bullying has happened in the context of school, you may need to get the teacher or principal involved to address cyber bullying to the students in general. If you feel it is appropriate, encourage your child to address, in a safe place, the bully face to face. Practice what your child will say and coach your child about the different responses he or she may get. It may also be necessary to contact the bully’s parents who may not be aware of their child’s inappropriate use of the Internet. It is important to involve your child in confronting the situation. You are trying to send them the message that they are capable and can be instrumental in managing conflict. Although it may be parental instinct to jump in and take control, it is important that your child also has a role in managing the situation.

It’s important to talk with your children about the emotional impact the Internet and computers can have on real life relationships and friends. While technology will continue how we communicate, the nature of family relationships and friendships remains the same. Now is the time to talk with your children about this important issue.