How much time do our children spend online? An average of 136.5 days per year. How much time do our children spend in front of the television? An average of two hours a day: three times more than the time invested in reading a book. Then did you know that over 35% of social media profiles of minors 14 and under are public and accessible to anyone without any privacy settings activated? That means that almost one in three minors allows a stranger to view their personal information, photos and videos.
These data points are among the many gathered by Empantallados: a new online educational platform in Spanish to help families seeking guidance in the digital world.
The basic premise is that technology shouldn’t be viewed as a danger for children, rather a precious opportunity for education and development. However, technology must nevertheless be understood and managed, just like anything else, to avoid imbalances and excessive tendencies that lead to addictions.
Media Education Starting Young
Helping families, teachers, and educators navigate the opportunities and traps of the digital world by providing education in the realms of media and technology. This is the mission of Empantallados, a didactic project that sprung from the following question: why is it necessary to educate users from an early age? Technology influences so many aspects of our children’s daily lives. It is thus important to educate them in technology’s correct and balanced use already at a young age, when it is easier to intercept bad habits that become much more difficult to correct later on. A proper foundation is essential to healthy development. In other words, prevention is always preferable to a cure.
There are four specific objectives within Empantallados:
1. How to help develop children’s personalities.
Technology influences the behaviors and habits of many children of various ages. It can particularly affect the development of their character and personality. For example, a recent study demonstrated how the tablet can be a tool that stimulates young children’s intuition. On the other hand, excessive exposure can cause the onset of various problems, such as anxiety, insomnia, visual impairments, cognitive disturbances, and difficulties in interpersonal relationships.
2. How to foster the socialization of youth.
Who has said that the smartphone, pc, or tablet lead to social alienation? These tools, if used in the proper way and at the right times, can help children relate to each other and develop social skills. Let’s think, for instance, of a child’s possibilities through Skype to have long-distance conversations with peers from other countries at essentially no cost, thus able to improve his/her own linguistic capabilities and cultural awareness. Unthinkable for a child born and raised in the 80’s or 90’s! The usual recommendation applies here as well: virtual socialization should never substitute real-life socialization.
3. How to create a culture of secure personal information.
When speaking of the digital world, the security and protection of personal data become a fundamental pillar, especially if children are involved. It’s essential for families to create a culture of defense of personal privacy. Some helpful tips are: avoid making your profile public, accept friend requests only from people you know, and never publicize sensitive data, such as your home address or telephone number. Also remember to take caution with the webcam- often preying grounds for blackmailers and pedophiles. The risk of grooming is unfortunately always around the corner.
4. How to cultivate our children’s creativity.
Technology can be an excellent instrument for developing our children’s creativity and helping them acquire new knowledge and skills, such as learning musical instruments, drawing, and making videos. There’s no need to buy an expensive guitar or risk destroying your house with paints. With technology, we can learn to design with a tablet or make musical chords with the keyboard or mouse. All with a click, and at low cost. This allows parents to immediately understand the “artistic” passions and inclinations of their children, and therefore orient them in choosing the path that suits them best.
To what degree are we dependent upon technology?
On the Empantallados website, you can take a short but extremely useful test (in Spanish only) to discover your actual digital consumption. You can take it as an individual or as a family. Discover immediately your relationship with your cell phone, the Internet, your pc and email! But be careful. You may find yourselves even more dependent than your own children. Enjoy the quest!