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Children in the NetWorld

Do we consider all the possibilities when we create an account? Andy Greenberg claims that almost every celebrity is on Twitter. As seen in his  article, a person that does not have an account in Facebook is many times considered a weirdo, and it has also been demonstrated that social networks can be damaging because they can cause depression or aggression (David Smith). In the words of the socialnetworks web, socializing is a need that all people have, but the way we interact with people has changed in the last few years and will probably continue changing in the followings. Is the Internet changing social life? We have heard many times that children are the future, which type of future are we building up? Different authors and organizations have come up with different answers, so through this article the different points of view regarding social networks and education will be analyzed, as well as make the reader reflect on this current issue.

If we think about the positive and negative effects networks can have, what is the conclusion we come to? These are some of the answers David Smith Jr, Brandon Sheley and Rachel Miller have given in their articles.

Positive aspects:

  1. You can get to know many acquaintances, more than in real life.
  2. It is specially easy for those who are shy, as there is no direct contact and it is easier to chat.
  3. You have the chance to talk to people you otherwise cannot meet.
  4. They are free (if you have access to a computer and to the Net).
  5. Internet saves time (people do not have to move anywhere to discuss something)
  6. They are useful tools for journalists: easy to identify the main interests of society.

Negative aspects:

  1. You have to provide personal information.
  2. You can get addicted to it and not want to get rid of it.
  3. Social Networks absorb a lot of time.
  4. Searching for quality content and stories becomes an issue.
  5. Once you put something on a social network (or Internet) it will be there forever.
  6. Internet can negatively impact user’s privacy, impersonal communications and cause isolation from others.
There are, of course, many other points that could be taken into account. Did you know, for example, that social networks are becoming the new victims of spammers? According to Jesús Sanz, it seems that it is in the social networks where people trust more on links, so less messages have to be sent to obtain the same results as on e-mails, where only 0.00001% uses those deceptive links. All in all, social networks can be very useful and save time as well as enable the user to make friends when they are used properly; however, it can also become dangerous when it absorbs time and loosens our communicative skills (Jesús Sanz).
Nowadays, in addition, the magazine HIK HASI shows that children are getting involved in the “Net World” earlier each day,so the situation changes slightly.

Digital Identity, according to Robin Dedmond-Thomson, is what you create on line plus what others create about you; that is, your digital footprint. As he says in his work, Reputatin Management is about building the postivie and minimizing the negative; about cultivating the identity you want to present to the world.

Every Internet user has to create a Digital Identity once they log in anywhere; so, in his words, Reputation Management can be very impotant if you care about the way you present to the world. As it is seen in the article, this is why children’s image is so important, as they have not still built uptheir personality and life. According to Kenny Silva, we have all become marketers for ourselves, whether we know it or not. So we should take care of our Digital Identity and maintain our Digital Integrity (being who we appear to be). He suggests killing the digital version being really what they are.

The Basque magazine HIK HASI‘s point of view, on the other hand, is a possitive one. According to them, it is necessary that schools deepen on the use teachers and students can give to Internet in order to acquire those positive aspects the Net can provide them with. However, it seems that we still use Internet with the same purpose we used to use other tools, not to take advantage of the new options it offers us.  In their words, Internet can be very practical or damaging according to the use we give to it; so schools, parents and teachers should teach the child how to make the best use of the Net, how to know reliable sources of information, how to verify that piece of  information or how to be critical.

The research the magazine carried out shows that 48% of the parents believe that there are little safety measures in the Net, and they mainly fear their children will look for pornography, meet unknown people and give information about themselves. On the other hand, it seems that kids, when they are in the Internet, usually are looking for information (91%), sending messages (71%) or downloading music (60%), being chats only 32% of the use they give to the Net.

The problem is that, as Doug Grossexplains in the CNN blog, many children lie about their age and enter to sites like Facebook or MyDpace, where there is supposed to be a minimum age to sign in. Related to this, some scientists have claimed that pre-adolescent use of the Net can be a danger for the children’s relantionships and brains. Other researchers, however, believe that there is not a solid research that shows so. All in all, out of 700 children, 38% aged 12 to 14 said they had an online profile of some sort.

To sum up, we could say that more and more children are facing the Internet every day, and that teaching them the dangers and advantages that can have is a compulsory obligation educators should fulfill.

Owing to this, what could be done? What is the influence social networks have in education?

The magazine HIK HASI suggests surfing the Net together, both parents and children. As well as that, they advice parents saying that even if the time spent on the Internet is important, it is even more important what are the children doing and where they are. The computer should be in a place where anybody in the family can access easily. As follows, it is also a good idea to teach the child and learn from them at the same time, and to inform them about the dangers and the fears the parents have, in order to understand each other better.

Brandon de Hoyos, for instance, recommends some Social Networks for Kids:

  1. ClubPenguin.com: Children can play games. Strong security.
  2. Imbee: Chat, meeting new friends, sharing videos, etc.
  3. Kidswirl: Games, sharing albums, taking quizzes, blogging, meeting new friends, etc.
  4. Togetherville: Allowing parents and children to play, creating art, etc.
  5. Yoursphere: All the features of popular social networks, meeting new friends.

As we have seen, Digital Identities are a complex issue, and the problem becomes more important once children are involved. In conclusion, I would say that both positive and negative points have to be considered before judging social networks and its use. We have seen that there are optimistic points of view regarding children and the Net, the only thing one should do is to inform about all of them.

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