Online communications – It's all about respect!

  • Awareness
  • 21/01/2020
  • Maltese Safer Internet Centre

Nowadays, children are extremely at ease with digital technologies, the internet and social media platforms. As highlighted in a 2018 study commissioned by the BeSmartOnline! project, Maltese children aged 9-16 spend an average of over three hours per day online. With children being such voracious consumers of online content, it is imperative for them to understand the notion of online respect towards their friends, family, social groups, teachers and schools. 

When it comes to children, most of their time spent online consists in communicating with others. As highlighted in the 2018 EU Kids Online report, 45.6 per cent of the children surveyed reported communicating "daily, almost daily or almost all the time" with family and friends online. Furthermore, 32.4 per cent of the participants reported having gone through hurtful experiences online while 17.1 per cent said they have received hurtful messages.

With no physical boundaries, children may use technology to inflict virtual abuse on others through social media platforms or online conversations. Hence, it is extremely important to instil a culture of respect in the online world. In order to escape the daunting reality of online risks such as cyberbullying, children need to be educated and guided in ways that promote respect, understanding and responsibility. At the end of the day, respect is something that is learnt.

With regards to the online relationship between parents/children and educators, it is advised that both parents and children refrain from using social media platforms to criticise educators and educational institutions. Of course, there will be times when they may disagree with a new school policy or have personal concerns about specific issues, but using social media platforms to share such concerns may not always be the ideal or morally correct solution. Whilst free speech and constructive discussions are definitely something one should encourage, it is imperative for children to understand that comments or posts on social media are reaching a much larger audience, could easily be taken out of context, could damage social relationships, and could tarnish the morale and reputation of others.

It is to this end that the BeSmartOnline! team encourages children and parents to bring about positive change and to respect themselves and others online.

Since 2010, BeSmartOnline! has served as the national Safer Internet Centre for Malta and is implemented through a consortium that promotes the safer use of the Internet and technology at whole.  The project is co-funded by the European Commission's Connecting Europe Facility and is coordinated by and implemented through the partners made up of the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, the Office of the Commissioner for Children, the Directorate for Learning and Assessments Programmes and the Malta Police Force Cybercrime Unit.

Find out more information about the work of the Maltese Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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