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How to create a healthy online environment for children to bloom

Different approaches used by different nations

How to ensure the internet security of young people has become a common concern in all countries of the world. The government, operators, parents, teachers and other parties really worry their heart out concerning this issue, using varies methods making sure that their children are safe and sound under surveillance while browsing the unknown internet.


United States: Provides healthy games and websites for children

As a pioneer in the development of the Internet, the United States pays particular attention to the information security of children’s use of the Internet. It has successively introduced the Children’s Internet Protection Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The former requires that libraries and primary and secondary schools that receive specific federal funding must use network filtering techniques to prevent minors from accessing inappropriate and harmful web content. The latter restricts the collection of online personal information for children under the age of 13. For the use of some website services for children under the age of 13, the website must obtain parental consent.

Some operators in the United States will build a protective wall for their children. For example, in the Apple Store, there are often some apps suitable for children to download. In order to prevent children from downloading without the permission of adults, some games will have some relatively difficult problems asked before installation. For example, some complicated four arithmetic operations that are easy to answer for adults, but quite difficult for children to figure out.

Youtube is the largest video site in the United States, but in the enormous ocean of all types of video, it is easy to get access to a lot of violent or pornographic videos on Youtube. As a result, Youtube launched the Youtube Kids version, and all the videos in it have been rigorously screened and are suitable for children to watch. Parents can install related apps on their iPads so they can see the healthiest, most educational and entertaining videos.

In addition, parents can install special filtering plug-in on the computer’s webpage to filter out webpages with violent or pornographic content. When children browse the web, just open those plug-ins, and those pages that cannot be watched by children will be automatically blocked.

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China’s relatively “traditional” approach to information management

Most parents in China are resistant to mobile phones, the Internet, tablets, and video games. The theme that parents like to complain about is: “Children are always playing computer or mobile phone. What should I do?”

Chinese parents try to delay the age of giving mobile phones to their children, but they can’t really go against the big trend. Now middle school is almost a deadline. Most schools stipulate that unless the special circumstances, the mobile phone are strictly banned or must be turned off at school; if teachers find out that the student are using their cellphones, they will confiscate the phone, or even report the student to their parents if they violates the rules several times.

As for the computer, its introductory knowledge and basic operations belong to the content of the technical course set up at the beginning of primary school. However, compared with the popularity of computers today, children have basically been exposed to all kinds of electronic devices before kindergarten.

Compared with Australia, the United States and other countries, Chinese schools and parents are still reluctant to accept mobile phones and tablets. No schools were equipped with all computer teaching tools, or allow students to have a tablet for class or homework.

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Finland: Parent guide children to “browse scientifically”

Finland’s new syllabus in 2014 clearly states that information technology is one of the seven core literacy and one of the important components of the 21st century talent path. When a child starts using a computer, does the parent choose to stop him or develop his better habits and abilities under the supervision of the parents? Finnish parents obviously chose the latter.

According to relevant paper, compared with other EU countries, Finnish children browse the Internet in an early age, but the most important thing is that Finnish children’s computer technology ability is the best in the EU, and the ability to identify technical risks and error messages is also the best ( Kupiainen et al, 2011 ).

The Finnish authoritative media “Helsinki Times” has conducted a sample survey of 20,000 Finnish parents. According to the survey, 72% of Finnish parents believe that parents should take the time to get familiar with the computer games and social media that children are playing with, so that they can understand whether it is meaningful for harmful for their children (Ahlroth, 2014). The attitude of Finnish parents makes me very surprised: before you stop a child from doing something, let me know about it first.

A survey draw by Kupianinen asked the Finnish students what they have done with their computers in the past month. The data shows that 84% of children have played single-player games; 82% of children have watched videos; 72% have sent and received emails; 72% have done homework; and 66% have browsed social media platforms ( Kupiainen et al, 2011 ). Therefore, the computer is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, children are addicted to the games and waste time; on the other hand, it is a tool for learning and an important part of future work and learning ability. In the opinions of Finnish parents, instead of completely preventing children from using computers, it is better to cultivate children’s computer use ability under their careful and improvising supervision, so as to better help them grow.

Another survey from Finland showed that 86% of Finnish parents (children 3 to 8 years old) claimed that they would manage their children’s computer use and their management methods were quite diverse (Livingstone, 2011). Some people would set limited screen time, some people regulate that electronic devices are only available at the appointed time, others would looking through which websites they children visit, their homepages and groups on social media, and what netizen friends they have, what they are talking on the web.


References

Reijo Kupiainen, Annikka Suoninen & Kaarina Nikunen (2011) Online Habits of Finnish Children: Use, Risks and Data Misuse, Nordicom-Information33 (2011) 4, pp. 51-57

Jussi Ahlroth (2014) Mobile media everyday phenomenon for children, Helsinki Times http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/finland/finland-news/domestic/10543-mobile-media-everyday-phenomenon-for-children.html

Livingstone, Sonia, Haddon, Leslie, Görzig, Anke and Ólafsson, Kjartan (2011) EU kids online II: final report 2011. EU Kids Online. London School of Economics & Political Science, London, UK.


Further Reading…

YouTube says it’s doing more to protect kids By BBC News

Parents, Students Want Computer Science Education in School By Cynthia English

Study reveals children’s risks on the Internet By Helsinki Times

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