Emma Okonji writes that parents can help their children and wards become global citizens through the use of the internet without any form of abuse if properly guided
The internet no doubt has made the world to become a global village, connecting people to different businesses relationships and giving access to global information at the click of the keypad.
That is the beauty of the internet, even though it comes with its own challenges that could mislead people, especially teenagers, if not properly guided by their parents and teachers.
Innovation with internet
Two years ago, Nigerian brothers Osine and Anesi developed an Android web browser. Inspired by Google Chrome, they named their browser Crocodile Browser Lite. The web browser was described as a functional, fast browser for feature and low end phones.
The two teenage brothers were featured on BBC for the great feat and they plan to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sometime in future.
Like Osine and Anesi, Tomisin Ogunnubi, a 12-year-old graduate of Vivian Fowler Memorial College in Lagos, developed an android mobile tracking application named: ‘My Locator.’ The security app includes an alert system integrated to the Lagos State Emergency Service Number.
The stories of Osine, Anesi and Tomisin is a testament to many positives of internet usage in the lives of Nigerian teens and children. In a clime where we amplify negative tales, their stories shone bright and widely reported across the media. Today, Osine, Anesi and Tomisin represent just a tiny fraction of the many shining stars – teens and children – who today are doing great things through the internet.
Power of the internet
The emergence of the internet in Nigeria has been a blessing, especially to the huge young population, that has started their leadership journey from today. There is no gainsaying that the internet has been very beneficial in diverse ways. The expansive amount of information on the internet has been useful for children and teenagers in their academic pursuits. It keeps them connected with the outside world and helps them stay informed about everything that is happening around the world. Educational websites and software like Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica have advanced in popularity over the past few years with tweens and teens forming a greater part of their users. Those needing help on a topic for their coursework, or who are just generally interested in reading up on a particular subject can readily find it online.
There is no doubt that children especially teenagers of this age hold a strong advantage over the past generation in the wealth of knowledge available to them through the internet and the awareness and advancement that comes with it.
The internet has also helped kids with respect to greater connectivity and globalisation. Today, students from different parts of the world can connect with their counterparts through video conferencing without leaving the classroom. For instance, sites like Glovico are used to help students learn foreign languages online by pairing a group of students with a teacher from another country.
Internet as alternative
The internet has become alternative source to self education and empowerment. Instead of playing educational board games, students can learn the basics of spelling, counting and other early educational lessons through computer games that make learning fun. These computer games help children develop critical thinking skills.
Moreover, not every parent has the resources and budget to send their kid on field trips. As a result, the child’s education may suffer. However, with a stable internet connection, students can use the internet to virtually attend web seminars online and learn. In a world that is becoming increasingly competitive, access to the internet for children cannot be over emphasised.
The internet also helps these young lads with credible personal issues too. Growing up can be a tough process for children and teenagers. Sometimes, they can feel alone in certain situations, such as relationships or challenges from home.
By using the internet, these kids can find help and advice on problems they feel too embarrassed to talk about with their family or peers. This, in turn, minimises worries of teenagers, ensuring that they perform better in school and social life.
The internet offers kids more opportunities to develop and become successful in life, than a lack of it. If we must do anything about internet access for children and teens, it should be to make it even more accessible to them.
Challenges of the internet
The internet has been proven to be one of the most innovative inventions, exposing people to great exploits, just as the saying goes: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
But unfortunately, the internet has not been without its disadvantages. It has also birthed new challenges for the society and most menacing is its impact on youngsters as they are very vulnerable. Addiction to the internet is now rampant across the world as it leads to a lot of ills like easy access to pornography, vulnerability to cybercrime and reduced physical activity.
In the absence of physical activity, children are prone to developing lifestyle related issues like failure to develop interpersonal skills and obesity. Apart from these factors, constant exposure to a screen can seriously damage the eyes, and put a strain on body parts like the neck, back and shoulders and, these can create terminal problems for teens and tweens in their developing years. The online space has also become the new hub of bullying; and in some instances, cyberbullying has been responsible for tragic death.
Despite the challenges, the importance of the internet cannot be over-emphasised, but parents have to ensure they monitor their children’s use of the internet. Locations, devices and censorship are key in monitoring a child’s usage of the internet. Building and solidifying great relationships with the children are also equally important to ensure they don’t turn to their friends and the Internet on things parents can provide the best answers to. This will help to encourage accountable behaviour and build their digital resilience. The internet is, perhaps, the most wonderful invention of the 21st Century with lots of benefits. However, its offerings can be dangerous to tweens and teens without appropriate checks, hence the importance of parental control.