Phuket Opinion: How to steer children as they surf the web

Chalam Attatham, 54, has been the Director of the Phuket Primary Education Service Office since 2011. In 2010 he served in the same capacity in Pattalung. A Phuket native, he has a BA in Education from Srinakharinwirot University and an MA in Education from Thaksin University.

Here he talks about how parents and teachers can work together to help children benefit the most from technology.

PHUKET: The internet has brought about big changes in school children, some good, some bad.

In the past, students were more timid and didn’t dare reveal their ideas when talking to adults or during discussions in the classroom. Nowadays, they have a lot more self-confidence and are more willing to speak up. This is a good thing, and it has happened because they have more access to information as a result of the expansion of cyberspace.

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Still, access to information presents its own problems. Students often don’t have enough life experience or knowledge to judge which websites are trustworthy. And they can become confused when they encounter different information on different websites.

While students are more confident nowadays, they are also prone to more delinquent behavior than in the past. These days they often don’t pay attention in the classroom, they bully each other, and they are less obedient to their teachers and parents. In the worst cases, some of them get involved in drugs, inappropriate sexual behavior, and violence. I think this is also due to the internet – the online movies, social networks and video games.

I’m not saying we should ban the internet or try to stop its progress. For one thing, this is impossible, and for another, we would be denying ourselves the tremendous benefits it brings.

What we need to do is understand it and use it wisely.

First, the government should put restrictions on what internet sites are available to young people under age 18.

Secondly, parents and teachers need to work together to guide children’s online experiences.

In the classroom, teachers should teach children how to determine if a website gives credible information or not. This means they need to teach youngsters how to analyze information they come across. Teachers should also guide children to websites that are related to what they are studying, so they can continue to learn outside of school.

As for parents, the first thing they need to do is make sure their priorities are straight.Many parents nowadays become so focused on academic success that they equate it with their child’s value. They think, “my child is getting good grades, so that means that my child is good.”

I don’t agree. The way I see it, we should have three goals for children: First, that they be good people, then that they gain knowledge, and finally, that they be happy.

If they are good citizens, the other two goals will follow automatically, so we must first help children become responsible, disciplined, honest and polite.

To do this, parents and teachers need to work together in a coordinated way. I arranged this in a small village where I used to work, and it was a success.

When parents and teachers meet, they discuss their expectations of who will teach what. Parents are told what the school curriculum is, so that they can reinforce it at home.

Parents also supervise their children’s internet use at home, and guide their children to sites useful for their school work. A side benefit of this is that the parents and children spend time together, which deepens relationships.

It used to be the case that children learned something in class, then practiced it at home. Now, with the internet, they can learn at home and do practice – through discussion and games – in class. We call this “flipping the classroom”.

Once we accept that technology deeply influences many aspects of our lives, we can understand that we need to use it with care, and teach our young people to do so too.

— Irfarn Jamdukor


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