The importance of balance

Safer Internet Day 2022 message by Parents International

Safer Internet Day is observed on the 8 February each year, and Parents International is a long-term supporter of the initiative constantly calling attention to a balance of rights and actions, and the crucial role of parents in ensuring it. In 2022 Safer Internet Day is again about “Together for a better internet. The United Kingdom has decided to focus on using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively, a very timely initiative. Our annual message is closely connected to this.

In 2021, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted a General Comment concerning children’s rights in digital environments. In this document, it is highlighted that all children’s rights should be given due weight, thus including the right to seek, receive and impart information, not only that to be protected from harm. In no particular order of importance, the following rights are, or should be, most impactful in the online environment:

  • The right to free expression (Article 13).
  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 14).
  • The right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly (Article 15).
  • The right to privacy (Article 16).
  • The right to access to information (Article 17).
  • The right to education (Article 28).
  • The right to leisure, play, and culture (Article 31).
  • The right to protection from economic, sexual, and other types of exploitation (Articles 32, 34, and 36, respectively).

Parents as primary educators of their children, and as primary protectors and enablers of children’s rights play a very important role in finding the right balance. According to recent research (EEPN 2021, OECD 2021, CoE 2021), in general parents are already better suited for this than professional educators. With the teaching force becoming older in most parts of the world, a growing percentage of parents are already ‘digital natives’, have been using digital technologies extensively all their lives. This needs a rethinking and shifting roles with teachers and other professional educators becoming lifelong learners learning from parents as well as other sources. Parents are present and wish to be engaged, this has also been proven by research (Brookings 2021, IPA 2021), thus it seems obvious for schools to become open to the opportunity of learning from parents.

For the much-needed respect, responsibility, critical thinking and creativity, educators – both professionals and parents – need to develop their skills in these fields. Research clearly shows that professional educators tend to be less entrepreneurial than people in other professions – meaning that parents are likely to be more creative, resilient, ready to take initiative, to think outside of the box or be collaborative. It is also clear from research, that teachers are less able to think critically, namely eg. to differentiate between fact an opinion, than the general population, the parents.

However, parents still need support in further developing these competences, and our recent research shows that there are very few initiatives targeting parents that implement the balanced risk mitigation approach instead of pushing for risk prevention at the cost of all other rights – and most of them come from industry. Parents International has joined the SAILS consortium to develop resources for parents of school-aged children, after being part of a similar initiative targeting parents of very young children with a similar approach (DigiLitEy). The resource will soon be available for all.

To foster neighbouring skills and competences, we have also been active in and promoted entrepreneurial parenting. On Safer Internet Day 2022, our ParENTrepreneurs trainings and collaborative learning platform are more topical than ever.

We are calling all other stakeholders and Safer Internet Day supporters to promote these tools and to use parents as a resource for their own learning for an internet where we really can be together in an unrestricted, but still safe way.

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