Technology is a wonderful thing. The advent of computers has made life a lot easier for many people nowadays. I often think how lucky today’s children are, having access to computers in schools and learning IT skills from a young age. Computers hadn’t even been invented when I was growing up. But maybe today’s children aren’t so lucky after all. Computers it seems can be a curse as well as a blessing. According to the rather worrying results of a study by the Institute of Public Policy Research, many of Britain’s children are effectively being raised “online”, addicted to the internet, in their own little virtual world. Many youngsters have computers in their bedrooms and spend up to 20 hours a week surfing the net, often until the early hours of the morning. With many youngsters being more knowledgeable on the computer than their parents, it seems this is becoming a growing problem. Networking sites like Facebook, Bebo and You Tube are particularly popular with youngsters. Many youngsters have also been exposed to scenes of violence and pornography online. So-called violent “happy slapping” videos are regularly viewed by children on sites like You Tube. The majority of parents, it seems, are unaware of what sites their children are visiting online. In addition a growing number of children are playing violent video games classified for over 18’s. Is it any wonder we have the growing problem of violent youth crime in this country! The Institute of Public Policy Research believe that the internet providers should take some responsibility for the content of certain websites and promote acceptable behaviour online.
TV psychologist Dr Tanya Byron who conducted the study on behalf of the Prime Minister has urged parents to ban computers and video games from their children’s bedrooms and instead place them in “family” rooms where usage can be monitored. Another way to keep children safe online is to use blocking devices to stop youngsters visiting certain types of sites. In addition it’s also a good idea for parents to take the time to sit down and talk to children about the dangers online. Maybe limiting the amount of time that children spend surfing would be a good thing too. Spending hours on a computer can’t be healthy, probably the reason why we have the growing problem of childhood obesity nowadays. Encouraging children to go out and play or do sports would be much better for them and would also help them to interact with other children to form real friendships rather than virtual ones.
Dr Byron has recommended a crackdown to stop shops selling violent video games to underage children. She has also recommended that the games should have a cinema style rating to make it easier for parents to understand which ones are suitable for younger children. In addition Dr Byron believes that parents should be given free lessons and advice on how to keep their youngsters safe online. To get further help and advice on keeping your child safe online, follow the links shown below:-