Social and adolescents, Francesca Valla: “Let’s teach our children digital education”

Digital natives, geeks, always connected. There are at least 100 thousand Italian teenagers between the ages of 11 and 17 who make compulsive and uncontrolled use of social media and streaming platforms, spending hours and hours a day online. In addition to chatting, they also come across content of all kinds: videos, photos and interactions that potentially have no boundaries or restrictions, and none of them have received digital education to learn how to handle them with care, avoiding risks and dangers. To fill this gap, Meta has launched a campaign designed to talk to parents and educators about the importance of responsible use of social media by teenagers. The challenge is to guide their sons and daughters to use these tools in a healthy and responsible way: it’s called “Connected Parents” and aims to raise awareness among adults, providing them with the tools necessary to get closer to kids and guide them towards an online experience only positive, but also safe. To make this possible, Meta has developed over 30 tools to guide teens towards conscious use of the platforms, from age verification to controlling sensitive content to time management on Instagram.

Meta: “Let’s talk to parents to promote awareness”

“Very often parents don’t know the new digital channels well enough to be able to accompany their children on this journey, which is why we feel the need to speak to them. With ‘Connected Parents’ we want to encourage a constructive dialogue between parents and educators, experts and influential figures to create awareness on the subject and promote the well-being of children”, Laura Bononcini, Public Policy Director of Meta for Southern Europe, tells Sky Tg24. The campaign can count on 13 ambassadors that Meta has selected as spokespersons, from the journalist Francesca Barra to the popularizer Andrea Galeazzi to the family counselor Francesca Valla.

Where can a parent find a boundary between protection and control of their children?

This is a highly challenging aspect: parents often tell me about the difficulty they have in finding this line. I think that to take care of sons and daughters even in the sphere of online life we ​​must start by educating, defining precise and shared rules, creating an open dialogue, promoting active listening and a non-judgmental approach towards children.

Today’s boys and girls are digital natives, but this does not mean they know how to use technology correctly, there is no training on the topic. How dangerous can this completely tool-free use be?

Yes, they are “digital natives” due to the familiarity they have with technology since childhood, but they do not know how to use it in a conscious and responsible manner. This issue must be taken seriously because inappropriate use of technology can pose risks to privacy, online safety, personal well-being, even relationships. Without appropriate guidance, our kids can be exposed to dangerous or inappropriate online content. It is important for parents and teachers to provide educational training on technology. Not only that: it is also essential to take care of our children’s offline lives.

Should digital education be taught in school?

I believe that the task of educating cannot be delegated to a single educational agency. Family and school must together take care of boys and girls. It therefore becomes necessary that in the classroom, from the early years of primary school, we work towards developing digital skills and digital awareness of children; Technology has a very strong impact on their daily lives, on society and on education itself.

What, if any, is the boundary that should not be crossed so as not to lead to addiction to social media?

Without a doubt it is important to start from an educational pact in the family, therefore to establish clear rules together that are shared. For example, it becomes necessary to set a pre-established time, insert offline breaks, activate the do not disturb mode (or turn off the smartphone completely) while studying or doing other experiences, open up dialogue about social experiences in the family, create an area at home without devices (e.g. the bedroom). I would add that to register on a social network the instructions say that you must be at least 13 years old.

What are the warning signs of a possible social network addiction?

Some signs that are often highlighted are: spending excessive time online, social isolation, disinterest in other activities, state of irritability and anxiety, change in behavior and performance in school, desire to share excessively, seeking confirmation through “likes”. ”…

How are they prevented?

By establishing limits, clear and shared boundaries. And it is also important for adults to know the tools that the platforms make available, for example tools such as “Take a break” and the “do not disturb” mode for time management. Or, equally important, the ability to hide the number of I like so as to give importance to the content you are sharing and not to the number of likes obtained, learning to manage social pressure accordingly.

Kids are bombarded with images and videos of all kinds. How can we discourage the inevitable influence of incorrect models on social media, from those of unattainable perfection to the most negative ones?

We certainly need to start when they are small, working on a preventative level in developing critical thinking and teaching empathy. Once they grow up we must help them distinguish what is real from what is manipulated or false and continue to educate them in empathy. As a family we should always try to build an open dialogue with our children about the media and the contents they encounter online: let’s help them tell us what they see and above all how they feel about certain contents. Our approach as parents, however, must be open and never judgmental.

Do you think that today’s parents are sufficiently attentive to their children’s relationship with social media? What are the most frequent errors? And what is most difficult for them?

Most parents are attentive, but declare that they do not always feel up to the task of addressing the issue of their children’s digital education within the family. Perhaps the most tiring part that fathers and mothers tell me is the difficulty in enforcing limits on social media.

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