I approach the topic of young people’s rights on the internet not only as a researcher but as a mother. How will I inform and protect my children from the complex interactions young people experience online that lead to their mental health being affected?
Technology has changed the way everyone communicates around the world from primary school children to the elderly. My 9 year-old’s friends are texting in the evenings on their new iPods already keeping track of the amount of ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ they are collecting as well as how may ‘snaps’ and ‘comments’ are posted. My daughter is already concerned about the ‘bonding’ she is missing out on. At the tender age of 9, and though not online, she is already experiencing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
“Virtual peer pressure” is the new peer pressure bringing with it both negative and positive influences. Young people need to know how to deal with the pressures and stress associated with this new virtual life.
Our iRights Youth Juries of over 100 students age 12-17 introduced me to a group of intelligent, informed and creative individuals. They want to be heard and have the answers to problems that we know exist. When questioned if the participants were aware of their iRights, it was clear that they wanted not only to own the Rights but to operate them.
The 5 iRights
1 The Right to REMOVE
2 The Right to KNOW
3 The Right to SAFETY and SUPPORT
4 The Right to INFORMED and CONSCIOUS CHOICES
5 The Right to DIGITAL LITERACY
What surprised me the most after discussing the iRights with young people was their awareness of the psychological and physical stress they or people they knew suffered. They even had recommendations on how to avoid their digital stress though they didn’t seem to practice them.
I found that this generation is past being lectured to on the dangers of the internet in regards to e-safety and cyberbullying. The daily Facebook or Instagram fix is impossible for the social media junkies to skip. How do they utilise the right to make an informed and conscious decision while being drawn back into the web? Many suggestions from our young people included educating parents and having parent-controlled apps monitoring their time on social media. Are they inviting us to help them with their involvement in social networking?
It’s not a problem that we can leave to our kids to solve. The right to digital literacy extends to us all if we choose to operate this right. We need to educate ourselves to help our children.