The Information Security of Children: Self-Regulatory Approaches

By Vartanova, Elena L.; Tolokonnikova, Anna, V et al. | Psychology in Russia, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Information Security of Children: Self-Regulatory Approaches


Vartanova, Elena L., Tolokonnikova, Anna, V, Cherevko, Taras S., Psychology in Russia


Introduction

The digital revolution: New opportunities and new problems

The previous decades have brought significant changes in perceptions of children's safety in their access to information. Technological progress, by inspiring a rapid development of the Internet, radically changed the traditional media environment. Digital technologies "mixed" conventional media: TV programs today might be easily watched on the screens of personal computers and tablets; connected TV sets become "windows" to the Internet; and a traditional newspaper text is transformed into a convergent multimedia product combining video and audio.

The digital revolution has opened endless possibilities for creating and dissemi­nating news and entertainment content. However, it has also posed new problems for mass media and audiences by increasing the amount of accessible information and fostering competition between the old/analogue and new/digital media; by challenging existing legislation, business models, and copyrights; and by disregard­ing the traditional roles of journalism and the values of audiences. At the core of the crucial issues of the digital age stands the problem of children's information security: the need to secure children's rights to safe media and a safe Internet in order to prevent serious threats to their psychological health. Unlike adults, who have gotten used to living in an information-rich environment, children, because of their age and social position, remain vulnerable to intense media and are un­able to filter the content coming from different media sources and technological platforms, which are always increasing their influence on the younger audience (Fenton, 2010; Tornero & Varis, 2010).

TV programs, net video resources, digital games, and other new media options constitute a big threat today because they are the most accessible types of content. In the analogue era parents could limit children's access to media by hiding inap­propriate publications, but it becomes rather complicated to control what children watch on multichannel TV sets or multi-screen media devices in digital reality to­day.

Unattended interaction between children and television or the Internet may cause serious harm to their health and age-specific development. Realizing this threat, the majority of North American, European, and Asian countries, includ­ing Russia, have taken a number of measures to regulate media content targeted to children. Different types of harassments, child prostitution, child pornography, drugs, production of explosives, demonstrations of violence--these are some of the kinds of media content countries are trying to prevent children from watching (Roskomnadzor, 2013).

At the same time surveys of children, who spend more and more time on the Internet, show that they often face other threats, of which many parents are un­aware. One example is the so-called cyber-bullying phenomenon, which involves deliberate assaults, threats, use of offensive language, mocking, and swearing on the Internet. In some countries - for example, Canada - the struggle against cyber- bullying stands at the core of children's information-security policy. However, in other countries, including Russia, the state and media do not pay enough attention to it, although, for example, about 11% of the users of the most popular Russian social network, Vkontakte, are younger than 18 (TNS Web Index, 2014).

One of the main current problems is that in many countries legislative initia­tives in the sphere of Internet regulation lag behind the rapid development of in­formation and communication technologies. In previous decades the protection of children's interests in the mass media included a comprehensible set of measures: restricting children's access to adult movies in the cinema, not showing action movies on television in the daytime, hiding adult magazines in special packages. However, today, because of the rapid progress of the digital media, many of the established measures have become obsolete, and misunderstanding exists even in defining the agencies that should be responsible for such regulation. …

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