Leena Francis, the Principal of Indian School Al Seeb talks about keeping children safe online.
Smart phones, tablets and other devices can be powerful tools for learning and entertainment, but these devices sometimes bring children into contact with a predator.
Talking to Y Magazine about this subject, Leena Francis, the principal of Indian School al Seeb, says: “When we tackle online safety for children, we must split it into two age categories – 3 to 13 and 13 to 19.
“Then we must see how this affects the children. It all begins with health. Continuous usage of internet through a computer or a smartphone can have detrimental effects on health. A child can have vision problems or their grey matter in the brain can be damaged. While these are grave concerns, another worry is the mental health of the child.”
The teacher for more than two decades then adds: “The kids in the first category are in a development phase and they require time to play outside, study and with their families. Else, it’ll cause problems as they grow up.
“Next is parental influence on the kids. There’s no doubt that children look up to their parents, and sometimes parents themselves are engrossed in their smartphones or have very less time to engage with their kids. In such cases, they may end up gifting a smartphone to their child to make them happy.
“But you don’t know what they are doing or which sites they are visiting, because, you know, you don’t have the time.”
She then asserts in a deep tone: “Parents are key to keeping their kids safe from explicit websites. Parental guidance is a good means of helping children improve their knowledge. By keeping track of what children are doing – that is, by monitoring access to sites or by sitting with them – we can help them enhance their information base. This can be done by letting them access informative websites that can visually help them learn.”
The real challenge, according to Leena, is when children reach their teenage years. “This when it becomes a greater challenge. The child will not appreciate monitoring and will want their freedom. So, the parents will need to be smarter in their approach.
She advises parents to check what the child has been involved in after they have used the computer or phone – and then block the explicit websites.
“While all of this may be a hassle, what I have learnt in my years of teaching is that this can be averted to an extent by teaching the child about certain values and what they mustn’t do. If this is inculcated in the child from a very young age, then they will most likely take care by themselves,” she adds.