(photo credit: REUTERS)
“From the moment a child touches the screen we must also educate them about the dangers,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday.
He made these remarks at a roundtable discussion on the educational challenges in the era of social networks and on the online security and protection of youth.
According to statistics presented at the meeting, some 30% of Israeli first-graders use a smartphone without any adult supervision.
Bennett said the discussion, which included representatives from the Education Ministry as well as experts in the field of online security and protection, was about an issue that is “no less than life-threatening” and focused on “preventing serious mental and sexual harm.”
“Turning a blind eye is not an option and not a work plan,” he said. “This is a national objective and it is time we take responsibility.”
The education minister convened the discussion due to the expanding phenomenon of the inappropriate use of smartphones and the Internet, especially in surfing for pornography, violence, as well as online bullying, by pupils as young as elementary school age.
Bennett explained that during his visits to schools around the country in his conversations with pupils he was exposed to the online habits of youth and found that many young children were exposed to inappropriate content without supervision.
“There is great embarrassment among parents and teachers. The generation of parents and teachers was educated on ‘don’t talk about it,’ and today’s children are inundated with it [sexual content] and this is exactly our educational challenge,” he said.
Bennett said that his ministry intends to take “significant steps” to properly address the problem.
As such, Bennett convened the roundtable with the aim of developing a broad educational plan, together with outside experts, to combat the phenomenon among children.
“I call on all parents in Israel – don’t wait and don’t ignore, take an interest and check the content that your children are exposed to. And yes, already from kindergarten age,” he said.