Many would argue that the children of this generation, particularly those in the developed world, are lucky; fortunate in the sense that they can benefit from a number of things that the generations of yesteryear simply did not have. From state-of-the-art educational facilities to sophisticated gadgets that could barely have been imagined just three or four decades ago.
One of the greatest inventions of our time has been the World Wide Web. The mere fact that information can be shared – instantly – in a number of ways across the globe is, when you actually think about it, astonishing. One would be able to use the internet to ascertain their ancestry dating back several centuries, or perhaps research the credentials of an organisation for which one is applying for a job at. The possibilities are endless – and it is this very fact which makes the internet a potentially dangerous tool. On the one hand, the internet can be a wonderful educational tool that children are increasingly expected to use to support their learning. But on the other, they can engage in a multitude of harmful or even dangerous activities such as watching pornography and being victim to cyber bullying. Most worryingly, children could even be groomed for sex or radicalisation. It is for this very reason that parents, as role models for their loved ones, must be extremely wary of how their children use the internet, what they watch and with whom they communicate.
The teenagers and children of today are being brought up in an environment where there is less emphasis on social interaction with their friends in playgrounds or parks; rather, the norm has shifted to that of more cyber based customs and rituals. It is in the average school child’s nature to spend much time on social media platforms. This does have its benefits as it enables friends to stay in regular contact with one another; it also facilitates the cultivation of relationships with people that are otherwise difficult to access. LinkedIn, for example – although aimed for slightly older students , enables aspiring young professionals to connect with one another to further and fulfill their career ambitions.
However, there are big issues and potential dangers associated with social media platforms. The likes of Facebook and Twitter, despite their numerous benefits, are a potential breeding ground for hatred and bullying. There have been many tragic stories of how cyber bullying can lead to stresses, problems at school and even cases of suicide among teenagers.
Another danger involved with the web that we see today is the use of pornography and online dating. We live in an over-sexualised era where children are exposed to the opposite gender at an early age. The sex market is continually thriving and growing to the extent that our children are, to a degree, expected to have physical relations with the opposite gender at young ages; this has indeed become a primary topic of discussion and worry in schools and colleges today. Rather than being considered for what they are, the opposite gender is constantly objectified – not least through online pornography and the profit-seeking advertisement industry.
Children are impressionable yet inexperienced in life; they can be further manipulated by the allure of ‘online dating’ – often taking the chance of meeting people they have never seen before. There have been far too many horror stories of how innocently planned dates have led to traumatic experiences, a loss of innocence and even life.
Rather most poignantly in this day and age, the greatest danger that comes with this interconnected World Wide Web is that of radicalisation and extremism. Unlike the other dangers discussed in this article, the threat of radicalisation is not only harmful to single individuals and their families but to many communities across the globe. What makes this most worrying is that young children seem to find the appeal of terrorist groups – such as ISIL – more attractive, because of their slick propaganda of glamourising violence.
Vulnerable children who may feel out of place in a society, have little knowledge of their religion, feel disenchanted with their government’s foreign policy or for other factors might jump at the chance to‘fight back’ as a means of expressing their disillusionment. In almost all instances of young children being radicalised online, the parents and family had no idea or inkling of what was happening to their little dear ones. That this has can happen in our country and from behind a screen is a damning indictment of the threat we face.
As parents, we cannot simply sit back and let this narrative take its course; it must be within our disposition to do our utmost in protecting our children. First and foremost, we want to foster relationships with our children that are built on love, respect and mutual trust – and in doing so we must ensure that they feel comfortable in discussing their feelings and problems they may face at school or online.
Parents should make their best judgments, depending on the intellectual maturity of their children, on whether they should buy certain gadgets for them. Another useful tip may be to keep laptops or computers inside the home in a communal area so that children are subconsciously more wary of the pages they visit and click on. Perhaps, the use of parental controls to block certain sites could also be used. However, the most important thing for parents is to continuously and lovingly talk with their children, both individually and in a family setting, about all issues that are relevant to them – in order to help them grow with maturity and a strong sense of responsibility.
Ultimately, we must acknowledge that, in an ever-technological world, the propensity of our children to use the internet – either at home or at school – is currently on the rise. We must be aware of the dangers that come with such a remarkable tool in order to make sure that our children make use of its myriad of benefits to develop into well-rounded adults.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“Allah (SWT) will ask every caretaker about the people under his care, and the man will be asked about the people of his household”.
This article was originally submitted on Huffington Post.