The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures have triggered an unprecedented shift in how parents and carers, teachers, educators – and even specialists in the field of online safety – frame children's uses of digital devices for the purposes of social interactions.
For example, in pre-coronavirus times, US technology and social media scholar danah boyd could not "remember a period in (her) research when parents weren't wringing their hands about kids' use of screens", and could "never (have) imagined how conditions might change when a global pandemic unfolded". Indeed, for many children and young people around the world, the internet has now virtually become the main way of socialising and keeping in touch with friends and relatives, providing a lifeline to their social lives.
Yet, in doing so, children and young people are also exposed to potentially harmful content, contacts and conduct. In that context, it is important that parents and carers continue engaging with and showing interest in their children's digital activities and interactions, favouring a positive rather than restrictive approach to how their children spend their time online, and providing support and guidance where necessary.
The Insafe network of European Safer Internet Centres (SICs), through its awareness strands, has developed many pedagogical resources on the topic, in a variety of European languages and for different audiences – you will find some pertinent resources to get started below.
- This flyer on the impact of new media and technologies on human relationships (available in French and German), created by the Luxembourgish SIC as part of their Love Stories 4.0 campaign.
- Safelyonline.eu (in English), a comprehensive media literacy resource for parents created by Gezinsbond and the Belgian SIC, with a section dedicated to children's online relationships.
- And because the darker sides of social online interactions also need to be discussed, the #BeInCtrl video, created by the Irish SIC to raise awareness of online grooming among young people.
For more resources, please visit the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) resource gallery.
To learn more about the International Day of Friendship, please visit the United Nations' website.