Can we control online content?

Since it’s no longer viable to control what our children view, we need to offer guidance

Parents are worried about the online content children are exposed to.
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The widespread adoption of various digital technologies, such as iPads and smartphones, is revolutionising family life and causing many concerns for parents. As The National reported yesterday, parents are facing challenges to control what their children view online, with the tremendous amount of content on the internet, too much of which is violent or sexual and inappropriate for young children. Such concerns are evidently universal. TV is no longer the centre of children's worlds and parents all over the world find it very hard to protect their children from what they may encounter on the internet. When it comes to teenagers, it has become difficult to strike a balance between allowing independent exploration and providing an appropriate level of parental oversight. For good reasons, parents are worried about the content teenagers are exposed to, behaviour they engage in online, the people with whom they interact and the personal information they make available to strangers. Police and teachers also worry about online safety issues, such as cyberbullying, blackmailing and privacy issues affecting – in most cases – teenage girls.

Currently, there are some ways to restrict what children view, including YouTube’s Safety Mode and parental control features on the major web browsers. There are also apps to track and control online activity, including text messaging and social media, such as Google’s Family Link, Bark, Limitly, and TeenSafe.

While these methods might work for younger children, teenagers are becoming savvy enough to simply figure out a way to defeat what is restricted. And so perhaps the best thing parents can do is to offer continuous guidance; to talk to their children about responsible online behaviour and the things they have to avoid for their own good. It’s also important to start setting screen-time limits from a very young age to help them moderate their use and diversify their free-time pursuits. It’s clear that the information age requires a new, more adaptive style of parenting.