Thursday 12 October 18:00-20:00 in the ECB Main Building
Luisella Giani, Oracle EMEA Business Innovation Director
Dr Ivan Ferrero, New Media Psychologist
Please note that this summary is based on the notes taken during the presentation by Marjut Vallius. The format of the presentation was interactive, i.e. there was a lot of discussion going on between the presenters and the parents, and hence the presentation did not follow a rigid slide by slide approach. The summary is based purely on the notes, without changing the order of anything or adding any personal views or judgement.
The presentation started by Luisella and Ivan asking the parents whether we recognise (based on pictures of the app logos) the different mobile apps, such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram etc. Ivan explained that it is important that both adults and children are aware of some of the dangers with these apps, e.g. that pictures posted on Snapchat should disappear within 24 hours, but that there are means of capturing the picture (e.g. taking a picture of the picture) and that something that you deleted, might now be used somebody else for other purposes. Another app that was mentioned is Tinder (dating app), that is infamously famous for its ‘quick matching approach’, where you are allowed to contact the other person only by choosing their picture and subsequently could be meeting up in real with this person within just a few hours of first contact. This is very different to how other dating apps work. Many teenagers use Tinder just for fun, just for checking how many people like them. Children also share pictures for fun, but they are often unaware of the consequences.
The three top advices from Ivan to the question of how we can deal with these types of dangers are: ‘relationship, relationship and relationship’. In the same way as we ask our children ‘how was school today’, ‘how was football’ etc., we should also be asking ‘what’s going on in WhatsApp, Instagram etc.’ It should also be noted that children often have more time on their hands and they are usually faster in grasping new technologies and changing to newer apps. E.g. it is quite unlikely that you will find your child using Facebook, they prefer other (newer) apps such as e.g. Instagram and Snapchat.
There was a discussion about how to control and limit the usage of smartphones and other digital devices. The presenters’ opinion on this was that if you do not give your child a smartphone, he or she will become an outsider. Ivan gave an example of a family that he was working with in his role as a psychologist. One of the issues was that the boy was not meeting up with his friends. When asked why, he replied that he did not know where they were. This was because he was not allowed to use a smartphone.
Smartphones is a part of our children’s social lives. Smartphones are a gate to their digital life. We are quickly moving from the pre- to the post-internet age. Contrary to us, our children are born and raised in the digital era. They use the smartphones to meet up with their friends. The smartphones are important for the children. According to the presenters the right approach is not to forbid them.
Questions and answers:
Q1 - How can we educate our children of the dangers of these different apps (e.g. not sharing private content, meeting up with strangers etc.)?
Again the relationship aspect was mentioned as the most important. Parents also need to be aware of the apps that are being used and the dangers of them. You need to know where your children are, i.e. which apps they are using. Active listening is also important. Same as trust; children will be more likely to tell you what they are up to if there is a trustful relationship between you and them. Education is also important; children also need to be aware of the risks. For this you could use videos and information, e.g. material featuring celebrities educating on internet risks. Most importantly the interaction with your children needs to be a dialogue, not a teaching lesson.
Q2 - How much time should children spend on their phones? Parents voiced the danger of addiction e.g. watching series hours upon hours. Other parents noted that their children, who used to be active doing other things, now sit in front of the Wi-Fi-spot all day.
Teenagers often stay on their phones because they are bored. If you find something else for them to do, they will shift. There is however no clear answer to this question. The smartphone is a gate for them, e.g. for keeping in contact with friends. When teenagers reach an age of 16-17 they should be somewhat mature enough to make decisions themselves. It was also mentioned that we should allow them to make ‘little manageable mistakes’. Children are curious about their devices. The devices are their future and there are many uses for a smartphone. Watching YouTube is what used to be watching TV, i.e. YouTube is the new TV. Children have been playing video games for quite some time now. Previously you needed to go to a shop and buy games. They are doing the same now, just in a different way.
Teenagers post a lot of pictures of themselves. It is a form of self-expression, building up their identity. They post pictures and wait for the feedback. This is a form of social proof, which is and has always been very important for teenagers. The difference is that we now have social media.
Q3 - There was a question from the parents whether the new generation of teenagers are narcissistic.
We are all narcissistic. Whether it takes extremes depends on the level. We live in a social world where image is important. Our children are growing up and experimenting with new ways of being.
Q4 - There were a few questions around the difference between the real and virtual reality.
We are entering the artificial intelligence era, living in offline, virtual and mixed realities. Currently only a few computer nerds use these virtual realities, but we are all moving in this direction. What is real and what is virtual; it is a challenge for all of us to answer these questions. These are some of the big questions in the very near future.
Q5 - How would you advise us to introduce the virtual realities to our children?
Through communication, explanation and education. Let us not forget that e.g. movies are also not real. In addition virtual should not only be seen as bad. E.g. some people might find it difficult to socialise in the real world, but they can be social in the virtual world. Maybe virtual realities are sometimes more real than the actual reality?
Q6 - How do we gain control over something that we do not fully understand? Do we have to change how we view this ‘new reality’?
We speak about offline worlds and digital worlds that combined could be called hybrid worlds. In these different worlds we have real identities, digital identities and those combined make up hybrid identities. We are not able to not communicate. We communicate through the clothes we wear, through what we eat and drink etc. Our children communicate on social media. Each platform is designed for a different action, e.g. Instagram is visual. Our children are born into the digital world. For them the digital world is as self-evident as it is for us to breathe. Ivan used this story to try to exemplify this: Two fish were swimming in a river. They passed by a fisherman who asked them: ‘What is the temperature of the water?’ The fish looked puzzled and continued swimming. Further along the river one fish asked the other: ‘What is water’? This is the internet for our children. They were born into it. Internet is something that simply is there. This is the big difference between us and our children.
Q7 - Do we overestimate the risks, e.g. the danger of becoming addictive to likes or game playing?
Addiction has always been there, in different forms. One has to make a separation between needing or wanting likes from friends and likes from anybody. There is not a well-defined line here. Addiction is a clear danger of the digital world. It is e.g. known that game playing can be a door to a gambling addiction. We have to stay aware of these dangers.
We also need to be aware of the fear of the invisible threats syndrome (FITS), which is the fear of the unknown. We therefore need to gain more knowledge about the digital tools and media. At the same time we should also keep in mind the positive aspects.
Q8 - Is it ok for the school to say no to Wi-Fi and the use of smartphones?
Ivan told about an experiment in an English school were the students were given tablets with educational apps for studying. Contrary to what one could have expected the children did not see the need to install other apps on these tablets, but were instead using the educational apps for studying. Ivan mentioned that he is pro gamification at schools. He explained that the school environment is often not very appealing for children; grey buildings, a lot of listening, someone talking to you. Therefore gamification could be used for making learning ‘more fun’.
The best way to make our children aware of the risks is to let them play in a monitored setting. We should not try to avoid the digital world. Use the smartphones for education. Experiment for the future in a controlled way.
About the speakers:
Luisella Giani is currently Digital Director EMEA at Oracle. Her role is to help companies to continuously innovate defining and realizing new digital experiences and exploring innovative technologies based on Blockchain, Virtual/Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. She has over 15 years of international experience and worked for global businesses such as Skype and Goodyear-Dunlop.
Ivan Ferrero is a New Media Psychologist. He helps parents, children and schools to deal with the digital age and transformation. He has over 17 years of psychological and educational experience and is the CEO of the leading Italian website about cyber bullying. He is also a partner of different start-ups and Tech Companies, a columnist and public speaker.
Some sources to go to:
§ I Ivan’s website: www.digitalparentingtips.com
§ Microsoft Safer Internet Day: https://news.microsoft.com/en-gb/2017/02/07/safer-internet-day-microsofts-five-top-tips-online-safety/
§ G Google and go on YouTube together with your children
German Ministry of Education has some information relating to Internet Safety for Children (this was mentioned by one of the mothers)
§ L Book up TedTalks on this subject (targeting young people)
n a Ivan also mentioned that we should ask the school for digital education
Other links (not mentioned during the presentation):
§ h https://www.enisa.europa.eu/media/multimedia/videos/video-clip-long-version/popup