Assignment: 1) Watch “How children engage with the internet”
2) Read chapter 6 of Children and the Internet (151–180)

Guiding Questions: How do children engage with the internet? Are the problems found online with children the internet’s fault or people’s fault?

Response: Sonia Livingstone states that while the internet brings risks, it also brings opportunities, and treating the internet as a negative influence isn’t so simple. Even though the internet has in a sense promoted pornography, talking to strangers, and cyberbullying, Livingstone brings forth the important idea that it may not be the internet’s fault that so many children are being exposed to such risks. It makes sense that it’s people’s fault since they’re the ones who decide to bully someone on it, watch pornography, etc. So rather than calling the internet “bad”, we should look more towards those who are using it and create methods to educate them. The only things that the internet has helped in is in increasing the numbers/percentages of people who do those harmful things. The internet allows for there to be anonymity, allowing for people to be more confident and do things they may not have dared to do in person.

However, just like perpetrators are more confident, a lot of the victims tend to also feel more confident. Livingstone states that it’s the people who are experiencing hardships in their real lives that tend to feel this confidence online. They’re able to create a new self. However, in feeling more confident, the problem arises that they expose more of themselves online. Pedophiles can find out about them and eventually meet up with them. It is also a case that the littlest thing that you’ve said online can be used against you. Yes, that is sometimes done when you even say something, however, the difference is that with the introduction of the internet, it allows people to have “proof”. They can take screenshots. It makes bullying easier. Not to mention that this bullying can spread like wildfire. Bullying doesn’t have to be as personal, but rather it can reach you even in your safe places like home. On the other hand, children may receive education and skills online that are not as easy to get in person. For instance:

“Teenage girls use the internet not only to express their identity but also to explore, often in a private, intimate, sometimes anonymous, sometimes confessional manner, their confusions, vulnerabilities, uncertainties and ignorance regarding sexuality, including sexual norms, emotions and health” (Livingstone 173)

Anonymity may be used in a positive way, allowing for these teenage girls to answer questions they may have instantaneously that they may be too scared to ask in person. Livingstone claims that discovering sexuality is a big part in a teenager’s life, so it’s necessary that they have all this information available to them. Children are still in the process of understanding themselves.

I also think that it’s important what she states that it’s part of human nature to want risk. Livingstone states, “risk is endemic, ordinary and at times, even pleasure” (155). So yes, there are a lot of risks in going online, however, if you tell a child to stop, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she will. In fact, they may be more inclined to do something. So what’s the answer? The answer is that children should be educated rather than telling them to abstain. In a survey conucted of 1,688 12–17 year olds in Bulgaria, “4 in 10 are unaware of the risks of meeting online contacts offline” (Livingstone 163). This poses a significant problem for society. If children are not educated properly of the dangers, then they can’t take any sort of precaution. Even though there are threats online, there are threats in the real world. In the same manner that you tell kids to stay away from strangers in the real world, you must educate them of the strangers online. There is a blurred line for who is one’s friend online, and it’s important for kids to know that the other person who claims to be a friend may be a 60 year old pedophile.

Many claim that it’s the internet that is harming children, however, this is also just a natural reaction to change. Every time a new technology is introduced, it is normal to be skeptical. Livingstone had stated in her TED talk that even Socrates was skeptical of the invention of writing, yet it is due to writing that we have gotten to where we are today. Of course, there have been negative consequences as well, allowing people to even write inappropriate things and share it. Technology isn’t necessarily bad, but sometimes the way that it is used is. Therefore, I think it’s more people’s fault than the internet in regards to the negative effects on children.

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