“Always look to your right and to your left before crossing the street. Use the pedestrian crossing. Pay attention to cars! Remember your safety belt! Stop at the red light, wait until it changes to green. Now it’s safe to go.“

While we’re in traffic it’s important that we follow the set rules and common agreements. By respecting them we ensure everyone’s safety despite size and age. While following common rules we ensure that everyone has the possibility to expect and foresee what will happen, as well as make deductions of various situations. Surprising and unexpected situations usually derive from human error, the neglecting of rules, indifference or someone letting their guard down. The greatest risk in the traffic- or in digital environments are not the vehicles or the media itself, but us people.

Every child has the right to information, learning, and safety in the traffic but also in digital environments. The objective of all learning is to improve children’s capability to protect themselves and their safety in dangerous situations as well as to teach them what is right, what is wrong, what should be avoided and what is acceptable.

Whether they are navigating in the real or virtual world, it’s important that children do not remain alone in an environment which they don’t understand or in which they don’t have the skills to handle its rules and regulations. Adults set an important example to children also in the use of digital medias. Adults must follow the development of the child’s skills and provide feedback on the child’s actions. With time, the child will grow to become a more independent and self-sufficient digital media user. At this point it is necessary for the child to have the required knowledge and skills for a safe and healthy digital experience.”

The safe use of digital media allows us to benefit from and enjoy all the opportunities offered by them, and to grow up safely in our digitalized society. Children have the right to partake and to express themselves, as well as to proper media- and safety skills education. It is the adult’s responsibility to ensure that children receive age-appropriate information, education, and support to suit their media preferences and interests

Anyone can fall prey to harmful content, fraud, theft, bullying, grooming, hate speech, violence or other crimes while navigating the digital media. Information, consideration, and level-headed actions become vital in uncertain situations. The safe use of digital media demands the ability to recognize harmful, threatening, and high-risk situations and the understanding, knowledge, and skills to act when these are encountered.

Online road safety traffic light model

When considering rules and agreements for the use of digital medias it is good to bear in mind the child’s opinions and thoughts. It is more likely that the child will want to respect the rules if they can participate in the conversations and the decisions being made in regard to them. At the same time, you’ll be strengthening the child’s functional abilities in a digitalizing society. The responsibility ultimately falls on the adult. It is important for the adult to ensure that the child is receiving appropriate opportunities, care, and protection also in regard to the use of digital medias. There are many things to take into consideration when it comes to the child’s media use. The child might also have opinions on matters related to the adult’s media use. It’s important that everyone commits to the common agreements. This traffic light model will help you initiate conversations and provoke some thoughts around the topic. Bear in mind though that you should update the agreements and rules regarding the use of media platforms as the child grows, as they gain more experience or when the circumstances around the media use change.

Red light

Which things, situations, or habits in the use of digital medias are such that are forbidden, potentially risky, threatening, or what are something that you should avoid when using digital medias? What are some things that an adult should decide about, and be responsible for, in children’s media use?

Yellow light

Which things, situations, or habits in the use of digital medias are such that could be looked at on a case-by-case basis and that are discretionary? What are some matters that the child could for example negotiate with the adult?

Green light

Which things, situations, or habits in the use of digital medias are such that are useful, and which bring joy and positive feelings, which are permitted for the child and that could be recommended to a friend? What are some things related to the use of digital medias that the child can make their own decisions about?

A digitalized world offers opportunities for learning, work, play and community. With the Online Road Safety Project, we can ensure that the internet is a safe and pleasant place for every child.”

 – Online Road Safety Project’s Guardian,
Minister of the Interior, Maria Ohisalo

Teaching safe media usage for children

(Checklist for safe media use)

Practice the safe use of digital appliances together with your child / Become familiar with digital appliances.

  1. What kind of content can the child access? Ensure that the child can take his/her first steps in the digital traffic together with safe and high-quality content.
  2. Can strangers contact the child within their digital environments? Discuss and agree on how to act in challenging/difficult situations
  3. Make sure that the child knows how to care for their safety but also that of others, while navigating digital medias.
  4. Educate your child on good password etiquette, characteristics of a good password and the fact that passwords are private.

Make observations about the digital environments together with the child

  1. Familiarize yourself with the functions and characteristics of the preferred and important digital medias of the child. What information would be required for the child to navigate safely through them?
  2. Find out what sort of matters related to information and data security are relevant for the media usage of the child and teach them relevant knowledge and skills so that they can ensure their own security.
  3. Discuss with the child what are some considerate and respectful behaviors and habits online. How to be a fair/good friend on social medias and gaming platforms? Effective communication skills and discretion can help create a positive atmosphere and prevent bullying and harassment.
  4. Teach the child to recognize harmful content as well as bullying, grooming, harassment, and other high-risk situations.
  5. Discuss the functional logistics of digital medias with the child. Information on internet users is gathered to be used for example for algorithms to recommend certain content. These recommendations have the goal to maximize the amount of time users spend by their devices. Practice together how to see different digital content and environments with a critical eye.
  6. Discuss the fact that false, fabricated, and misleading information can be found online. False information can be difficult to distinguish from the truth, thus making it important to teach the child how to view online content with a critical and cautious eye.

References

Chaudron, S. 2015. Young children (0-8) and digital technology. A qualitative exploratory study across seven countries. https://www.re-search.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/18945050/Chaudron_et_al_2015_children_0_8_and_digi-tal_technology_europe_report_libre.pdf

Forss, M. 2019. Älylaitteet ja niiden käyttöön liittyvät turvallisuusuhat. Teoksessa Kosola, S., Moisala, M.&Ruokoniemi, P. (toim.) Lapset, nuoret ja älylaitteet. Taiten tasapainoon. Tallinna: Statusprint,118-134.

Helajärvi, H., Kokko, S.&Vasankari, T. 2019. Älylaitteet ja fyysinen terveys: Älylaitteista sekä haittaa että hyötyä. Teoksessa Kosola, S., Moisala, M.&Ruokoniemi, P. (toim.) Lap-set, nuoret ja älylaitteet. Taiten tasapainoon. Tallinna: Statusprint, 103-116.

Lajunen, K., Andell, M. & Ylenius-Lehtonen, M. (2019). Tunne-ja turvataitoja lapsille: Tunne-ja turvataitokasvatuksen oppimateriaali(2. painos.). Helsinki: Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos.

Moilanen, Janita 2020. ”Olen lukenut groomingista” : alakouluikäisten lasten vanhempien käsityksiä seksuaali- ja turvataitokasvatuksen mahdollisuuksista edistää lasten turvallista sosiaalisen median käyttöä. University of Helsinki, Faculty of Educational Sciences. https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/319206

Opetushallitus (2014). Perusopetuksen opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2014.Helsinki: Opetushallitus

https://unicef.studio.crasman.fi/pub/public/pdf/vanhempi_lapsen_mediataitojen_tukena.pdf