Children and the Network: Why They Feel Important

“Children saved me,” said Monteiro Lobato, one of our greatest children’s writers. From writing so much for them, I’ve simplified myself. “Among Lobato’s many qualities as a writer was this: he was able to enter the children’s universe and talk to them as if they were not one of them. Because of the power, above all, if not a person who, like no one else, understands that curiosity moves children, he will discover a character like Emilia the doll, capable of defining lies. Example? Example? Shaped by depth: “Truth is a kind of eloquent lie, about which no one doubts. Only that. ”One of the greatest legacies this author has left us, of course, is to listen to children in order to understand the world we live in.

In the column I wrote about protecting children in the digital environment, I emphasized that it would be very important to listen to them when it comes to their concerns, especially one that even adults do not know. . In this sense, the UN initiative General Note No. 25, created in 2014 to consult with the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the Digital Environment, then to prepare a guiding document for the signatory states, and involving experts and international organizations, involved the theme. Was extremely attentive to the topics and interviewed children from all over the world. The text of the commentary was twice open to public consultation and the last edition, which I accessed through the Alana Institute, contributed to highlighting the protection against commercial exploitation of children, among other things, through its child and enjoyment program. The digital environment is truly a gem for those who want to understand the relationship between children and the online universe. The document assumes that children’s rights in the digital environment must also be guaranteed, as they browse the Internet, regardless of their age and family permission to do so. As we know, the epidemic has made this access more difficult to control, due to the fact that classes have become virtual and access to the network has become necessary. In that sense, it is better to bet on educating and communicating with children to protect them when using numerous websites, social networks, applications, etc. Which are available with a single click.

Among the countless pieces of information provided by children in commentary, there is some basic information for us to understand how they relate to the digital environment: “Through digital technology we can get information from around the world”; “[A tecnologia digital] Introduces me to key aspects of how I identify “; “When you’re sad, the Internet can help you see something that makes you happy,” they say Far from being isolated from the challenges awaiting them on the networks, the children explicitly sought help to travel there more safely: “We want the government, technology companies and teachers to help us manage untrusted information online”; “I want to make it clear what happens to my data … why collect it? How are they being collected? “;” I’m worried about sharing my data. ”

We need to understand the benefits and attractions of the Internet through the eyes of our children so that we can communicate with children about the subject in an informative, creative and above all effective way.

That is, not for lack of curiosity that they are unaware and aware of the challenges of this universe, however, the data shows that they continue to be the most accessible population for misinformation, fraud and online harassment. Why would this happen?

I think perhaps we need, in fact, to be open to understanding the benefits and attractions of the Internet through the eyes of children, acknowledging that the use of this tool has a number of beneficial functions that this population can offer that takes us away from prejudice. And the troubling view is that there, everything preached is “evil” so that we can communicate with children about the subject in an informative, creative and, above all, effective way. According to David Buckingham, a professor of English education, in his dissertation on media education, the conservative or protective attitude towards media that most adults adopt has the opposite effect: “It assumes that if we can encourage children to use their own media. We will protect them from the influence of the media if they can control and resist certain types of media messages and then reject them. ..) In practice, students often resist this approach, even when they seem to be doing minimal work: they find it disgusting and authoritarian. Seems to make less lasting difference.

Of course, global estimates from various surveys conducted around the world suggest that one in three Internet users is under the age of 18 and one in three is exposed to sexual content online, which is not easy to find. A formula that balances healthy use with the necessary protections. But you have to see. In addition to the general comments already mentioned, an interesting initiative is the European Commission, which recently introduced a new strategy for a better Internet for children (BIK +), based on a comprehensive consultation process with children, specifically supplemented by parents, teachers, member states, ICT. (Information and communication technology) and consultations with the media industry, civil society, academics and international organizations. Listening attentively to children and in all areas involving the Internet is, without a doubt, the best way to develop strategies for virtual protection. On the other hand, there are several proposals where adolescents address the problem themselves, such as the fight against misinformation, for example, where they talk to children and young people of the same age. This is the case with the MediaWise project, a non-partisan, non-profit initiative of The Pointer Institute, entitled Teen Fact-Checking, which reveals the truth for teenagers and adolescents. Here in Brazil we have a number of projects that involve young people in creating informative content on how to deal with fake news, such as fake or news – is it fake or news ?, the agency partners with Lupa Canal Futura.

Perhaps, indeed, we should learn from Lobato, who was much more concerned with provoking children to the question of why and how things are than they are (Emilia has done this in all her books!). The biggest danger seems to be not in the network, but in the inability to form our own ideas and perceptions about what we see and do in the online and offline universe. As Rapper MV Bill said in an interview with Revista Gamma, what his motto is, all we can do at the moment is be ourselves, “administrators of our own ideas” and “continue to evade algorithms”. Our role is to teach (and learn) children and young people how this happens.

January Christina Alves ECA / USP (Escola de Comunicações e Artes da Universidade de São Paulo), journalist, educator, author of more than 50 children’s books, twice winner of the Djibouti Prize for Brazilian Literature, co-author of the master book on social media “being deceived by fake news Author of “(Modern Editor) and” # XôFakeNews – Story of Truth and Falsehood ” He is a member of the Brazilian Association of Researchers and Professionals in Education-ABPEducom and the UNESCO Global Alliance for Partnerships in Media and Information Literacy.

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