An educational challenge
Adults and teenagers are often on a different level when it comes to internet. Adults think teenagers know everything about the computer and its applications.
They are a lot less familiar with these tools and feel like they can’t teach anything new to teenagers. By not discussing this topic, a pedagogical paradox emerges. Teenagers need education about the do’s and don’ts on the internet, about how to stay safe, but adults don’t feel capable to provide this education. This augments the needs of teenagers, as well as the fears of adults.
Another challenge might be to find the balance between the protection of the child and the rights of the child. Protection and education ask for follow-up, which means we should know what teenagers are doing. When it comes to their online communication, this is not an easy exercise since children also have a right to privacy, the right to freedom of expression, the right to protection for sexual exploitation. Educating children and young people means following up on them and communicating with them, but all this in respect to their right to privacy. Communication is key in this difficult puzzle. Don’t avoid the internet as a topic, but engage proactively in discussions about this theme. Don’t wait until a problem occurs before talking about online communication. Keep it positive so young people get the idea that they can come to you with possible problems later on. Never sneak through their mails, text messages or chat conversations. In educating children, trust is crucial. Trust that is being damaged when young people find out they are being spied on, that their educators don’t trust them. This leads to less willingness to discuss possible problems. So talk with them, in a positive way, agree on the do’s and don’ts, trust that they will stick to this and ‘check on them’ via discussion and communication.
Empowerment of young people is important to all of us: we want young people to be aware of their own responsibilities and of their abilities to live up to these. But empowerment only becomes possible if we give young people the trust and confidence to live up to these expectations. They have to be allowed to explore, experiment and make mistakes. That’s how they learn and it turns them into responsible people who know how to solve problems.
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