International Child Helpline Day 2018: Young People & Technology around the World

The theme of this year’s International Child Helpline Day is “Inclusion and Technology for Children’s Well-being”, and we’ve been hearing from our network of child helplines around the world how they are using technology in inclusive, creative ways.

We also asked three members of our #Youth, Ana Alanis, Heba Alibrahim and Patuma Tonex for their views and insights.

 

Children and young people around the world use technology in different ways. In this article, Ana, Heba and Patuma describe how children and young people use technology in their local contexts.

Patuma: In Malawi, not all children and young people have access to technology. Most young people who are familiar with technology live in the urban areas, and come from families that are able to either buy them a mobile phone or give them money to pay an internet café. Children and young people in Malawi use different kinds of technologies like phone calls, SMS, Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to communicate with their friends and families.

Ana: In Mexico more than 50% of children between the ages of six and eleven have internet access, and over 85% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17. In fact, UNICEF estimates that children and teens in the country spend approximately 5.5 hours online every week.

Patuma: In Zimbabwe, the most popular communication technologies used by children and young people include Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

 

These popular social media applications have helped children and young people, not only with each other, but with the world in general.

Heba: Technology has become a part of our life and daily routine. If you look around, you will see someone holding a smartphone or sitting at a computer. In the Netherlands, it appears that six out of ten young people spend a minimum of three hours every day on their smartphone. 15% use the phone for more than six hours a day. Many young people use smartphones as a source of information, news, weather and a way to communicate with others via social media.

Patuma: There are so many communication technologies that children and young people use in Tanzania. Some of these technologies include Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and Instagram. These technologies help young people in their communications.

 

Being online and using new technologies has obvious benefits for learning, communication and enjoyment, but our #Youth also have a few words of advice on how to stay safe while using them.

Patuma: Communication technologies are helping children and young people to interact with each other quickly and easily. Another advantage is that young people are learning new things every day, thereby becoming more aware of the environment around them and how it affects them. However, there is a risk of becoming addicted to technology to the extent where you forget the other things you are engaged in, like school. There is also the risk of online abuse and different cybercrimes.

Heba: While the use of smartphones may also have disadvantages and negative effects, teenagers who spend a lot of time on social media or playing computer games feel less happy than those who do more activities offline, such as reading or exercising. Several studies have shown that the daily use of smartphone gradually increases feelings of depression, stress, and problems with sleep and concentration. Children and teenagers should be using technology tools under the guidance and control of their parents.

Ana: In Mexico, these risks are acknowledged, and in response to the growing popularity of games, networking platforms, and even online learning opportunities, several internet providers in the country are taking steps towards providing safer and more inclusive access to technology. Some of the more popular projects include safe navigation tablets which make potentially inappropriate content unavailable to children, language access platforms for children to learn a new language, and even motion-sensor technology to make sure children stay active.

Heba: Luckily, nowadays many companies are developing technologies and applications that offer the opportunity for parents to keep track of what children are doing and to help making the internet a safer place without any inappropriate content.