Blog

Are Parents the best teachers? by Mikela Fenech Pace

I have no shame in actually admitting that I am a massive phone addict. I love chatting and keeping in contact so naturally social media simply feeds my addiction. So much so that my thumb on my right finger is already showing the signs of mobile distress and often cramps up. My husband has often made the point that I should actually put my phone down and ignore it especially when at home. He would even send me messages on my phone as a joke – a poignant one need I add. Admittedly, I did try a few times, falling back into my usual phone routine shortly after. Until the day I became the butt end of my children’s jokes. ‘Mummy is always on the phone’, ‘Mummy loves her phone’, ‘Ma, get off the phone I am speaking to you’. Children have a great way of hitting where it really does hurt. So my new resolution is to put my phone away when the kids get home and leave it on charge. Check it once when I put them to bed and leave it there till I get to bed. Unlike our children we were not brought up with technology.  We used to sneak around the house and pick up the phone to call our friends hoping our parents wouldn’t pick up and notice. I can still hear my parents’ screams to get off the phone, leave the phone available etc etc. ‘What on earth do you need to speak to a friend you’ve just spent a day at school with?’ my mother would rant. We would spend hours... read more

Support to Victims of Cybercrime

The internet is a powerful tool which has changed the world we live in. As with all things, it has its good side and its bad side. Negative consequences arising from widespread internet use include online stalking and bullying, online fraud, and hacking. These activities can be widely classified as ‘cybercrime’. When someone becomes the victim of such crimes, they may suffer negative consequences. These may include feelings of anger, fear, embarrassment and lack of confidence. It is therefore useful to know that there is a service aimed at helping such victims. Victim Support Malta, a registered, non-profit organisation, has been providing support to victims of crime for a number of years. The services offered by Victim Support Malta include emotional support to all types of victims of crime, in order to enable them to talk and overcome their negative feelings. We also give legal advice about for instance, whether a complaint can be filed with the Police, what happens following such a complaint, the length of the legal proceedings and what one should expect; whether one is entitled to sue for compensation; and if there are any forms of protection for the victim.We also provide any other practical help that the individual may require, such as accompanying victims to the Police station or to Court. All our services are free of charge, and we value confidentiality, so we never divulge details about a person who approaches us for assistance. It is important to be aware of the ‘dangers’ of the internet to protect ourselves from any of these situations; however, if something negative does happen to us, it... read more

Bills you didn’t bank on

“My 8 year-old daughter ran up a bill of £4000” said a father from Bristol after allowing his daughter to use his tablet so that she could play numerous games such as My Horse, My little Pony, Hay Day, Zombies vs Ninja and Smurf’s village. The amount may seem extreme, yet many parents can relate to receiving a credit-card bill that includes unwanted and useless purchases that their children have, often unwittingly, made. In-App purchases themselves are not a bad thing, as long as they’re used responsibly and under the full control of parents. What are in-app purchases? Some games, usually initially free to install, have the option to purchase additional content such as game levels, game accessories, maps, experience points, subscriptions and additional stories. These extras are referred to as In-app purchases (IAPs).  How can I prevent unwanted in-app purchases? Try it yourself: When you are downloading a free game, first try to understand how in-app purchasing is used, and whether you are comfortable with it. Set a password: Android and IOS devices encourage you to enter a password prior to making any purchases on your device. Never tick the ‘Remember Me’ button, as this will override the need to enter a password before buying an app. Set a budget: Talk to your children about in-app purchases, and encourage them to take a responsible attitude towards them. This can also be done in the form an an iTunes or Google Play gift card. Fortunately, you can restrict In-App Purchases on Apple devices and on Android devices. Restrictions stop you from sing specific features and applications, automatically block access... read more

Technology for Deaf People

I am a Deaf person working as a draughtsman inspector, I practice sports for Triathlon and I am involved in voluntary work within Deaf issues. Our only social problem is communication. Unfortunately this problem is hardly recognized due to little awareness within our society. So, myself together with other Deaf people, have to strive more to access communication in the best way possible. From my experience Deaf people are divided into categories such as: Lip readers, Sign Language users and those who are Bilingual. Every category has its specific access but this varies depending on what the place can offer to Deaf people. Many Deaf people rely on the use of technology such as emails, SMS and other means of texting. This makes technology an indispensable means of communication for Deaf people, even though the exchange of communication can sometimes be delayed, especially when people take long to reply, Deaf people still use it as it is better than nothing. Using email can explain details, while using SMS can help Deaf people in emergencies and in special circumstances. So the use of technology affects positively on Deaf people. It is important to create new technological means of communication which are easier to use for deaf people. Malta has ratified the  United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), so Malta has a responsibility to provide an high standard for everyone who uses technology as a means of communication, including communication for Deaf people. SMSing, email, videophoning (for Sign Language Users) are of course important for the Deaf, but unfortunately these depend mainly local businesses since local companies impose some conditions of Deaf people, like paying for... read more

It’s all about being accepted

A year or two ago one of my daughters came home seriously upset.  On asking her what the matter was she explained that two girls on her bus route were teasing her because her hair was too straight.  I couldn’t hold back my laughter which angered her even more naturally.  I looked at her and told her how incredibly lucky she is to have naturally dead straight hair and how those same girls in a few years’ time would be spending lots of money to have hair like hers.  She was not convinced of course and out came the curlers as she wanted her hair to be curly.  I entertained her in full knowledge that no matter how hard we tried her hair would simply flatten out within the hour.  After a few hours we managed some semblance of curls in her hair and she seemed remotely content.  Her sisters followed, no doubt, which made our day incredibly tedious. Her joy was, as expected, short lived.  Her hair was flat by bed time and not one curl survived the night.  I explained to her that she had to learn from a very young age to be happy with whom she was and how she looked.  I had to do just that when I was growing up.  I hated my nose and to be honest I still hate it.  It’s caused me a lot of grief over the years to the point where I struck a deal with my husband that if I stopped smoking I would actually have a nose job done.  I did stop smoking and went for... read more

Online Pressures

Peer pressure is a particular influence that a peer group exerts onto another individual. This influence encourages these other individuals to change, or, to conform to the peer group’s attitudes, values, or behaviours. Peer pressure is common and is a hallmark of child and adolescent experience. Nowadays, with the use of the Internet and most of all through social networks, peer pressure has taken a new form. Currently, children and adolescents do not only form part of a social group at school or outside of school, but also online. Through the use of chat rooms and communicative sites such as Skype, although physically remote, children are constantly interacting with peers, thus, still making them highly susceptible to peer pressure. Private groups formed by peers on social networking sites may be an instigator for members to conform to the main idea of that particular group. An example of this is group chats, were one will find a number of friends communicating on a single chat log. This type of online chat may lead to what is termed as cyber bullying, which may in turn lead to online peer pressure. This form of pressure is instigated when a group of members feel compelled to conform to a particular idea or topic in a bid to feel part of that group, in this case identifying with the bully. This scenario often occurs as individuals within this particular group aim not to appear different due to fear of not being accepted. Another situation common in schools is that arguments between children and young adolescents, which arise on the school playground, are continuing online.... read more

Selecting appropriate applications 

From a very young age children have access to the use of digital devices. With thousands of apps added each week, it is difficult to keep track of what applications are developed. Growing attention is being paid to the role of digital devices as having a potential for learning and development. Developers have created thousands of educational apps, in fact there are over 650,000 apps available targeted at children. In 2012, findings revealed that 80% of the top selling paid applications in the education category targeted pre-school children. This reveals an abundance of apps for this age range and the equivalence of parents ready to purchase these apps for their children. Selecting appropriate applications can be overwhelming, so I’ve put together some strategies that can help to select appropriate applications for your child. Read reputable reviews: It is important to refer to websites, such ashttp://www.bestkidsapps.com/ that provide a review of applications for children. Such sites also divide applications according to age-range, operating device and category. Installing these recommended apps will put your mind at rest that experts have approved them. Look at the details of the application before installing it: Each app provides information about the developer, the category that the application falls under and the age rating. Using applications that are age-appropriate will be more enjoyable for your child. The following is a list of the most popular categories that are searched for. Educational Literacy Mathematics Stories Creative Puzzles See other applications from the same company: If you find an application that you and your child enjoy look up the name of the company to find out if there are... read more

Time will tell – how times have changed!

Homework is possibly any parent’s nightmare. Homework with five young children can be daunting at best.  My kitchen table covered in books and copybooks with each child struggling for my attention.  Luckily one of the good things about having five children is the independence they have to achieve at a young age and HW is no different.  That is until one of them is stuck and mummy has to come to the rescue.  One such occasion happened only recently when my second daughter was learning time.  She struggled to make sense of the clock and in my enthusiasm I quickly made a cardboard clock – the same we used at school when I was her age – with two hands and numbers.  I tested her a few times and couldn’t seem to engage her interest when suddenly my eldest called out and asked me to come and look. With my nerves in tatters I ignored her several times, only to have her come and get me.  Expecting to see some new project she was working on or some game she had newly discovered, she surprised me by showing me one of the many online time games that she had found.  Rows of clocks online with an easy to answer section and corrections.  It is not often that I am lost for words but on this occasion I was truly speechless …. ‘Ma, what on earth did you make that clock for – haven’t you heard of Google?’ she said sarcastically. Stupid is an understatement to describe what I felt.It is at that moment that I realised how detached a parent... read more

Using the Internet to avoid embarrassment

‘I just ordered toast for lunch…but what I really wanted was a cheeseburger, with tomatoes, grilled onions, and medium size French fries, with a large strawberry shake…urrgh! I could not say it. I hate stuttering’. This post, written by a thirteen year old boy, appeared on Facebook some days ago. Social media can be used by people who stutter either to share experiences or to avoid speaking situations. Children who stutter may experience negative consequences due to stuttering. They might react to the expectations of parents, teachers, peers and others who urge them to speak fluent. Such reaction could be resorting to avoiding speaking situations. It is easier to Facebook then face people. However, it is much better to communicate with people and stutter rather than avoiding interacting and just use the social media. It is important for parents to avoid being the stuttering police and order a child who stutters to ‘slow down’, or ‘take a breath’ or ‘relax, say it again’. If slowing down helped their stuttering don’t you think they would do it? Instead of telling them to slow, for example, parents could slow down their own speech. The best thing a parent can do for a child that stutters is to make sure they have a strong and positive stuttering identity. This includes having an attitude of acceptance and not feeling shame about stuttering. Dreams, passion, determination and talents should determine their child’s future and not their stuttering. Biography    Dr. Joseph Agius is a registered speech language pathologist with special interest in fluency disorders and humour research. He is visiting senior lecturer at the University... read more

Bringing up the tablet generation

By now you’ve realized that, perhaps without wanting to, you have become a digital parent. This can be fun, exciting and often quite challenging. Children seem to whiz through their gadgets effortlessly and, just when you think you have figured it all out, a new application is released and your child has brand new jargon! The best way to equip yourself for this rapidly changing landscape is to make sure that you are not left behind. We’ve put together a few tips that will guide you towards making the essential first steps in being a successful digital parent or grandparent. Think: about how you guide your family in the real world and do the same in the digital world – don’t be afraid to set boundaries and rules for your child from a young age. Get involved: It is important to know what your children are doing. If you haven’t already, try out some of the technologies that your child enjoys. Even if it takes a couple of tries, it will be worth the effort it takes to be one step closer to your child’s digital habitat. Talk to your child: Chat about their favourite online activities and learn more about the channels they mention. Don’t be disheartened if they use words you’ve never heard. They’ll mention social networks and sites like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr or SnapChat. There are plenty of online resources to help parents understand more about these activities. It is important to take the time to explore them. Show you care: Show your child that you understand how important technology is to them. This will make... read more

Safe use of Internet by disabled persons

Information technology is a major part of our daily life and access to the internet has become an important means of participating in, and thus being part of, modern society. Access to the internet can give rise to more opportunities to meet a broader community of friends and gain new knowledge. Over the past years, FITA has received positive feedback from Internet service providers who have come to realise the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities when providing content. While I was browsing the internet I encountered this website http://www.parentsprotect.co.uk/files/learning_disabilities_autism_internet_safety_parent_guide.pdf which in my opinion is very interesting guide to learn more. I often use the internet either because of my work or for leisure. For me the internet became part of my life as it gives me the opportunity to communicate with friends and family from around the world. Web users, must learn not to share too much information about themselves on social networks. When information is public, you can never know who comes across it and what intentions they may have now or in the future. It is no longer true that one must not communicate with strangers. One must also be careful what they write or upload even with friends and family, since information travels extremely fast online. Parents at home and teachers at school should be knowledgeable enough to teach younger ones on how to use the Internet on this regard so they will know how to use internet safely. Persons with learning disabilities access the internet to meet new friends and to not to feel isolated while they can have access from the comfort of their... read more

Feeling baffled by your child’s mobile world?

Have you ever stopped to think and take stock at the seemingly destabilising effect technology has had on modern day parenting? Gone are the days when ‘children were seen but not heard!’  Today, we find ourselves in a situation where our children far outstrip their parents in their knowledge and know how on all things technological.  Just watch a baby pick up a mobile for the very first time.  The reaction is almost instinctive. For most parents the relationship of a child with technology is often baffling.  In truth, children are born into this technological society, whilst parents have to try hard to understand and catch up with a world that is not altogether obvious.  It also raises issues such as child-parent relationship and the balance that needs to be achieved. When looking at these issues, it is easy to ask parents and educators to be informed.  There is a mountain of information out there on the different aspects of the mobile world our children inhabit so easily.  The better we understand it the better we understand them. Vodafone has made the process much easier by putting together all their resources in an easily accessible website and facebook page in a campaign called www.ibrowsesafely.com.mt.    The site is intended as a fully-fledged resource with practical information and advice as to how to take informed decisions as to the delicate balance of online safety and mobile freedom. The ibrowsesafely campaign is brought to you by Vodafone Malta in support of BeSmartOnline.  Biography  Mikela is a graduate in International Relations from the University of Malta.  She holds a post-graduate degree in Management... read more

The 5-minute guide to deal with your children on Facebook

Everyone is on Facebook these days. You can keep in contact with old friends or make new ones. Distance is not a problem and even the Holy Father is just one click away. So you shouldn’t be surprised if your child is drooling to get a step closer to One Direction by joining one of these networks. Even though Facebook’s policy is not to allow children under the age of 13, this is rarely enforced since it is much more difficult than it seems to implement age restrictions online. The truth is that 40% of all kids have an active Facebook account. Even more shocking is the fact that in 1/3 of the cases, the parents, not only knew that their children joined Facebook (before the permitted age) but they actually helped their kids setup the Facebook account! The age restrictions where not imposed to make our kids miserable by keeping them away from Justin Bieber (even though that would be a very legitimate excuse), but rather to protect them.I would like to use the analogy of a knife to help you understand social networking usage. When our kids are still tiny, we tend to keep them away from knives. When they become toddlers, we give them plastic knives which are pretty much harmless (and useless) but which make them feel independent whilst teaching them about the use of real ones. When they are old enough to have developed a good sense of control and judgment, we start giving them real knives while the family is eating even though guardians still intervene when they need to cut a piece... read more

Preventing cyberbullying

“No body likes me….I can’t believe what my ‘so-called’ friends are saying about me” Bullying is not just physical- using technology to tease, embarrass and spread rumours are also bullying behaviours. Do you know what your child is chatting to his/her friends about?  What is cyberbullying? Cyberbullying occurs when a student, or several students use technology to: makes fun of another student does not include him or her out of things in activities on purpose excludes him or her from their group of friends or completely ignores him/her calls him or her hurtful names spreads false rumors about him or her or tells lies sends mean texts and tries to make other students dislike him or her These hurtful things can occur through: text messaging, pictures/photos or video clips, phone calls email instant messaging or chat-rooms and social media websites. Did you know? A recent survey conducted by the Malta Communications Authority revealed that 98% of Maltese children between 8 and 15 years old have access to Internet in the home.  Also, within the same age group 56% have access to the Internet on their mobiles. Other statistics show that 41% of children between the ages of 8 and 11 have a Facebook account in their name despite the minimum age of 13 to register.  What can I do? Set up the Vodafone Guardian Application . The app enables parents to stay in control in a number of ways, including: Blocking specific contacts or mobile phone numbers to prevent bullying text messages or calls Specifying times during which their child can make or receive calls, use apps, access the Web and... read more

Family Online Safety Institute – a word from David Miles

There is no doubt, that the Internet has had a profound impact over the last decade or so. We are entering an era where the pace of technological innovation once confined to the work place is now a feature of our daily lives. Parents in particular, are keen to ensure that children benefit from the exciting devices and content now part of most homes. Schools too, increasingly benefit from the use of technology as part of their students curriculum. And yet, with opportunities come risks. The very technology that connects us, can also make us vulnerable to those that would want to do harm. This leads to anxiety and is accentuated by stories in the news that infuse the public conversation with negative notions that are largely unsupported by research or the positive experiences of most children and young people. The generational divide is further compounded by rapid technological change. The trouble is that although as adults we instinctively, know how to protect children offline, we often assume that their greater technological expertise will ensure they can look after themselves online. But knowledge is not the same as wisdom. That’s why the Family Online Safety Institute is a proponent of good digital citizenship. In this, parents and educators play a vitally important leadership role. Ensuring that offline responsibilities and values are transferred online. Seeking both at home and school to equip children with the critical skills to make wise choices online. For more information on the Family Online Safety Institute go to www.fosi.org  To see how FOSI fosters a dialogue about what it means to participate responsibly in a digital world... read more

Cyberbulling

Prevent cyberbullying Written by: Veronica Montanaro   “No body likes me….I can’t believe what my ‘so-called’ friends are saying about me”.   Bullying is not just physical- using technology to tease, embarrass and spread rumours are also bullying behaviours.   What is cyberbullying? Cyberbullying occurs when a student, or several students use technology to: makes fun of another student does not include him or her out of things in activities on purpose excludes him or her from their group of friends or completely ignores him/her calls him or her hurtful names spreads false rumors about him or her or tells lies sends mean texts and tries to make other students dislike him or her   These hurtful things can occur through: text messaging, pictures/photos or video clips, phone calls email instant messaging or chat-rooms and social media websites.   Did you know? 98% of Maltese children between 8 and 15 years old have access to Internet in the home.  Also within the same age group 56% have access to the Internet on their mobiles.  Other statistics show that 41% of children between the ages of 8 and 11 have a Facebook account in their name despite the minimum age of 13 to register on Facebook.  Do you know what your child is chatting to his/her friends about?   What can I do? Set up the Vodafone Guardian Application. The app enables parents to stay in control in a number of ways, including: Blocking specific contacts or mobile phone numbers to prevent bullying text messages or calls Specifying times during which their child can make or receive calls, use apps,... read more

Reporting Online Concerns

Things can go wrong online as well as offline. Your son or daughter might be upset by an abusive message on Facebook or they might want to stop subscribing to a premium rate text message service. Maybe they have come across an inappropriate website during a Google search or they’re worried about the way another player is treating them when they’re on their games console. So it’s important to know how you can report any specific concerns you might have to your child’s mobile, social networking or games provider, search engines, websites, the police and other authorities. As with any parental concerns, you’ll have your own way of dealing with them of course. If your son is being bullied by a fellow pupil during an online game, you might decide to speak to his school about it or if you find out that your teenage daughter and her friends have been using sexual language on a social networking site, your first step might be to discuss it with her so you can find out what’s really going on. While it can be difficult to know what to report and what not to report – a young person might not even consider abusive online comments to be bullying (they might just see it as ‘drama’) and digital flirting might just be considered part of growing up, for example – it’s important that you report any serious concerns about things like harassment, child sexual abuse images and grooming to the relevant technology providers and other organisations (including the police, if necessary) so that they can take action. Digital Parenting highlights how you... read more