Thursday, February 22 2024

No doubt, the web is one of the greatest inventions of the last decades.

It has already become a stable part of our daily lives, to the point that
thinking of living without it seems impossible. Not only for leisure, like
streaming a movie or listening to music on web-radio, but also for
professional and social purposes. Arguing for the importance and relevance
of that fact is unnecessary, since our own personal experience suffices to
grasp the benefits and progress that this new media has brought into our
lives. However, balance and control are necessary to avoid the dangers of
an excessive and inappropriate use of the internet, above all when children
are online, by themselves and without the guidance of parents or educators.
In order to understand when and how to apply realistic policies concerning
internet filters and protection from the web’s dangers, we spoke with

Davide.it Association

, an Italian organization which has been active for many years in this
field.


-How and why was the Davide.it Association created? What are your
goals?

In 1997, having opened an internet access point in the library of his
Oratory, one of the Association’s founders Father Ilario Rolle discovered
the need to protect kids from inappropriate content which would appear on
the internet in truly subtle, and invasive ways.

Along with a group of people sensitive to these problems, he created an
Internet Services Society that had the goal of responding to new
educational demands, placing at the disposition of teachers, parents, and
children, both instruments and knowledge helpful for using information technology in an adequate way. Our seasoned experience
in these years has brought us to

the choice of constructing a filtered web meant to help parents and
teachers in their task.


This is how Davide, the first filtered internet service working in
Italy, was created. We gave the initiative the name of a small but great
hero, who is both proud and hits the mark: David, who with his slingshot
strikes internet’s Goliath, the worldwide spider web of pornography.

Today,


Davide.it


is a non-profit association that promotes every type of protection for minors, with attention to
the weakest subjects, or those at risk of abuse or violence, especially in the computer environment.


-The formation of children, especially those who attend elementary and
middle schools, towards the correct use and awareness of the media is
no longer just optional. In fact, AIART’s latest study (

see article

) has launched a cry of alarm concerning Internet Addiction Disorder,


a new phenomenon concerning internet dependence characterized by
anxiety and behavior problems, that is widespread among young people.
What are your actions and formative activities in this regard and which
initiatives are you pursuing?

For years, the Davide.it Association has been promoting formative meetings,
aimed at children, parents, and educators alike, with the goal of

stimulating discussion on important issues about the security of minors
on the web.


During the most recent years, Davide.it organized educational meetings in
more than 250 school classes in all of Italy, reaching more than 6,000
children, together with their parents and teachers. These meetings, called Safe Social Media, fall within the area of European projects aimed
at reducing the impact and consumption of violence in the social media.
Their educational content is developed in collaboration with teachers,
pedagogues, psychologists, and experts in new technology.

Among the main topics presented at these meetings are the following:

risks connected to the internet and new communication technology;
filtered navigation and protection strategies; responsible use of cell
phones; and videogames and social media.


We are always available to speak in schools, either by integrating into
already defined programs in the institution or by developing discussions ad hoc together with teachers. We give particular attention to the
late elementary and early middle school age, since access to the internet
is being offered to children ever earlier.


-Of course, it is not enough to just address children. Designated
educational activities are also necessary, focused above all on
prevention regarding adults. To this end, formation meetings held in
parishes, libraries, and schools can prove very useful.

In fact, synergy between parents and teachers is essential. Filtering the
web is really only the first step: it is good to put forth effort in order
to protect navigation at least minimally, and only right for parents and
institutions to promote the use of filters on webpages.

We believe however, that beyond all that, parents have another more
difficult task: not just limiting internet access and protecting their
children from evil, but cultivating in them the taste and desire for
goodness. The educator’s challenge is to encourage young people to use all
the possibilities internet can offer with intelligence: to become sources
of communication, to gather and order knowledge and relationships, and to
communicate in a truly creative way.

Towards this end, for years the Association has carried out information
campaigns about informed use of the internet and the protection of minors’
rights on the web, aimed both at teachers and parents. It has also
organized study conferences and seminars, taken care of various
publications, and spread newsletters about information and formation.

It also offers a website, www.davide.it
, containing material that is constantly updated about all cultural and
educational aspects inherent in the internet. It is meant to become a
helpful resource for educators..


– More and more children are being left alone in front of the
television, playing videogames, or surfing the internet. Certainly
these are low-cost “babysitters.” Prolonged and unprotected or
unfiltered exposure to media may have undesirable side effects on
children’s growth and development. For sure, we may agree that the
first thing for parents is to be aware the problem exists. Yet there
are also practical measures and solutions that can be taken; perhaps
systems for setting or limiting the amount of internet usage, for
example. Any advice?

With the new filtering system of Davide.it: Protected House, it is
finally possible to manage the hours when the internet can be accessed.
Parents can therefore set limits, since often children connect via wifi
with their own smartphones even at night. With the possibility of accessing
the internet through different kinds of devices that are increasingly
“portable” such as cell phones and tablets, beyond the traditional
computer, time spent on the web has become an ever growing problem. An
adolescent’s use of the PC should not surpass one hour daily. We know
adolescents spend between 2 and 5 hours every day on different media,
connected with cell phones or other devices.

Besides these technical measures, education is a key point in this regard.
The Association has also spread useful instruments that can be found on our
website www.davide.it. For example, we
have published the “Ten Commandments” of advice for a positive use of the
internet and new technology. Among other points, it recounts: “Establish
together with your children how much time they can dedicate to surfing on
the net, and above all do not consider the computer a replacement
baby-sitter.” It further includes, “Clear deals for the use of cell
phones,” and a behavioral code shared by parents and children can offer
helpful insights for regulating the use of cell phones.


-The internet is without a doubt one of the greatest technological
discoveries of the latest years. Its convenience and benefits are
enormous, for both work and daily life combined. Just like with many
other things however, if we veer away from the good sense of an
informed and balanced usage, risks are born—above all for the weakest
among us, such as children. What are some of these dangers? What should
be the parents’ role?

Much of what we find on the internet is trash, and the web can indeed
become a maze of traps since it truly contains everything: pornography,
violence, Satanism, sites encouraging eating disorders or gambling.

In general, research shows that parents and children know the dangers, but
underestimate them. The data concerning perception of risk is worrying.

Besides access to inappropriate or unsuitable content, there is the risk of
possible contact with unknown people, through unsupervised chats or social
networks. Other unpleasant situations include identity theft, and not least
of these negative actions, cyberbullying. For this reason it is advisable
not to give too much information in personal accounts, especially on social
networks. We can never be fully certain about who will come to possess our
data and use it to their advantage.

It is essential that parents, educators, and teachers make an effort to
protect the rights of children, giving them the security of a filter that
is truly effective without being repressive.

In addition, a sound piece of advice, one of our Ten Commandment points, is
the following: “Encourage sincere dialogue with your children regarding the
internet, and inform yourself about their interests and which websites they
constantly visit. The best protection is good family relationships.”


-Are there legal policies or legislation in Italy, or the rest of the
world, in defense of a minor’s access and navigation protection? Is
anything being done on a public level, even just the spread of a
culture of prevention that warns about dangers? Or is everything being
left to the initiative of parents and Family Associations?

The Code of Internet Self-regulation @ Minors
, which Davide.it helped to draft, was launched in November 2003. It seeks
to fight the traps that the Web can aim at young children and promotes a
correct use of the resources offered by this information society’s new
technologies.

It is a minor’s right to be protected, also on the internet: the right to a
balanced development, in fact, is recognized by national and international
legal standards. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted in
New York by the United Nations’ General Assembly on November 20, 1989 and
ratified under the Act of May 27 1991, n. 176. It holds accountable all
public and private subjects, and points out the family duty to collaborate
in providing conditions that will allow minors to live an autonomous life
in society, in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality,
solidarity; it also prohibits subjecting them to any form of violence,
mental abuse, or exploitation.

On the practical level however, it seems as though these ruling are not
enough. Throughout the years, different agents have promoted initiatives
concerning protection sensitization (such as the campaigns by the Ministry
of Communication, Post Police, and Connectivity Businesses), but more often
than not they are short lived projects that don’t maintain the necessary
presence over time, something that is essential for truly effective action.

There is a great need for information, and education about the responsible
use of the Internet and new media is a subject that is still barely present
in normal school curricula, and when it is so, it is a result of
spontaneous initiative of single attentive teachers or parents..

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