Many of the world’s top researchers on Internet security and intelligence met in China this summer to discuss, among other topics, terrorism and social media. Participating in the conference were presenters from sixteen different nations, including the Dean of Computer Science and Information Technology of Colorado Technical University, professors from the University of Arizona, which, along with the Institute of Automation and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, hosted the event in Beijing this July.
Their meeting will influence policy on Internet monitoring for terrorist activity in governments around the globe. It could also provoke some discussion around your dinner table between you and your own children.
If you already have a relationship among your family members where you actually discuss worldly topics, engaging your kids in a discussion about social media can avoid the pitfalls of a lecture and become an on-going dialogue in which youth develop skills in weighing values as they apply them, the Internet and news items they’re exposed to nearly every day.
The benefit is having parents participating in the formation of their children’s development of reasoning skills, while also addressing some practical matters of safety associated with living in a connected world.
As we’ve seen, and as great minds around the world are researching, extremists have and continue to radicalize persons through social media sites. Terrorists, using chat rooms, websites and even mainstream sites such as Facebook, are providing through these mediums a portal for young people to begin the long slide towards radicalization. When these processes go unchallenged, or likewise, unnoticed by governments, tragic consequences, such as those events witnessed by the world can and do occur.
These are the heady topics of discussion by learned men and women, such as those who met this July in China’s capital, but these experts, whose advice is given great weight in government, shouldn’t be the only one’s thinking about these issues.
Children, and for that matter, their parents and peers, learn from facing ambiguous choices like those we adults have to face every day. Seldom do situations provide us with black and white options, and weighing the choices faced by those accessing the internet are no different, especially, it can be argued, for minors. How do we prepare our youth to assess those threats that come from even innocent use of the Internet?
For that matter, how do we prepare our next generation of voters to decide what limits should be established by their representative government to protect a country with internet access from harm? If you found that final noun, harm, ambiguous, thinking both about freedom of expression and extremists luring in vulnerable youth, then you see the opportunity for discussion faced by lettered researchers, powerful policy advisors and families spending quality time sharing thoughts on the same issues.
The Internet, and the security risks inherent with its use, is a tool with more uses than communication it facilitates. For parents, it can be a tool that allows your child to independently develop a coherent set of skills for weighing conflicting values while having access to those most capable of giving honest guidance. Radicalism (historical)
About the author: Mark Thomas is a writer and former teacher licensed in gifted education. He enjoys working with youth and helping to prepare them for responsible citizenship and scholarship. He lives in the Indianapolis area.
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