Online ethics

The increasing usage of Internet imposes increased concern for the parents regarding their children’s behavior and usage of “the new entertainment and everything” for the younger generations.

Being concern is not sufficient, but some parents go a step further and see into the Internet history of the their dearest. There is no doubt that parent should have all necessary information on the children’s interest, and with this including Internet behavior, but the border between intruding the child’s privacy and the trust should not be crossed.

Young people need more than supervision. They need to be thought to develop critical thinking and gain solid understanding of the reality and ethics of online privacy. With the constant reshaping of the means of communication, everybody’s life changes, therefore this fact has to be considered when the parent is trying to impose opinion or a way of thinking over acting of the children.

Cathy Wing, Co-executive Director, MediaSmarts, Ottawa-based media literacy centre invited Jennifer Stoddard, Privacy Commissioner of Canada together with the English School Board of Montreal to speak in front of the students in 33 schools across Quebec at the event that marks the Media Literacy Week.

Laurier Macdonald High School hosted the event broad-casted at the schools in the LEARN (Leading English Education and Resource Network) network. This foundation is supported by the Quebec-Canada Entente for Minority Language Education.

According to Wing, students are not thought to think critically. She says that teachers tell students that their number 1 rule is not to use Wikipedia. Then they do not tell students how to authenticate other sites. Teachers should teach student how to use Wikipedia as it is a good tool, when used properly. Wings says that they teach them how to become producers of Wikipedia content and editors of content, which is a good practice for the students and improvement of the Wikipedia content.

Wing explains the misconception of online privacy. Considering the fact that the privacy is a huge issue, young people should be educated on their online presence privacy settings. The fact that a lot of things they put up go beyond their intended audience should be faced. For example. If they have third-party applications (like games), companies can collect data about them and their friends. Default settings can be incredibly complicated, therefore they have to know to go and change those settings to protect their privacy.

Trevor Milford, Master’s student in criminology, University of Ottawa, who spoke at the event emphasized that children must be taught to respect other people’s privacy from an early age. Everybody should be considerate of how they share other people’s personal information, without tagging people on their specific permission or posting photos you think are funny that could have real consequences for that person’s future employment or reputation.

Another considering important topic is the cyber-bullying, both Milford and Wing agree. This has to be dealt with form the earliest age, when the children go online.

Milford’s MSc thesis involves gender differences in Internet use. Up to now, he has established that boys and girls react quite differently when being harassed online. Males go off-line to deal with online aggression and they deal with it in the real world. They go to the person and deal with it face-to-face.”

Girls also get in fights with someone at Facebook wall or other social media. That is also considered cyber-bullying, but girls do not see nor deal with it that way. They consider it normal female experience, which has to be analyzed and resolved properly.

Another important aspect is the parents’ involvement who need to explain their children that online behavior should be a reflection of their behavior in real life, with grounds on the well established values in the children’s upbringing. “Stocking” your child’s Facebook profile and being harsh on every comment you do not approve of, will unlikely bring much good to him or her, nor will help you much in teaching him or her to differentiate the proper from improper online ethics.

This is the reason why the parents need to do discuss with their children their online behavior, if they want their children to have healthy online interaction. They need to teach them ethics in real life and explain that the same should apply to their activities while on Internet. Only after this, there will be solid grounds of upbringing children properly. Frustrations, neurosis, troubles should not be “cured” with insults, threats and hurt of one’s feelings while being online. The fact that one is behind the screen, does not make one stronger, with unlimited power to do whatever one wants. The monitor is not the shield that protects one from being irresponsible online user.

Virtual friendships online, do not mean virtual behavior out of control and without ethics.

In this sense, it is useful to be reminded of the quote:

A man without ethics is a wild beast loosen upon this world.
Albert Camus

More about online ethics and family safety:
Family safety

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