Tech-savvy but immature children require guidance on using devices

The inappropriate use of digital devices that are distributed to all students in elementary and junior high school has become a problem. It is important to carefully teach children about information morality along with the proper use of such devices.

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey of 74 local governments nationwide, including prefectural capitals and central government ordinance-designated major cities, 14 of them confirmed problems such as online bullying and defamation.

At an elementary school in Tokyo, a student sent words and pictures that hurt the feelings of another student during class. At a junior high school in Tokyo, students shared photos of a friend that had been taken without permission for the purpose of making fun of them.

If such behavior is left unchecked, it could lead to even more serious bullying. Such problems need to be identified as soon as possible and measures must be taken to prevent them from recurring.

In the case of a sixth-grade elementary schoolgirl in Machida, Tokyo, who took her own life after leaving a suicide note complaining of bullying, it is said that defamatory comments had been posted using the chat function of the devices, which allow users to communicate via text messages.

The survey also found that schools and boards of education could not check children’s posts. Settings must be changed so that teachers can browse comments, and guidance must be given when problematic content is posted.

It will also become important to teach kids that the principle “do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself” applies in the digital space as well.

In another case, an elementary school student was found to have been watching indecent videos after overriding the filtering function that restricts access to inappropriate websites.

Many children are more knowledgeable than teachers about the functions of the devices. In addition to increasing both the quantity and quality of training sessions for teachers, each board of education needs to facilitate efforts, through such measures as sending information and communication technology support staff to schools to show teachers how to use the devices.

If the internet is used improperly, there is a risk of users getting involved in a crime. It is important for children to acquire the knowledge and appropriate manners to use the internet properly.

The devices were distributed based on a central government initiative to give each student a computer terminal. As online classes are now a requirement due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the deployment of the devices has been rushed. For that reason, it seems IT education for the students that should have been done in advance has fallen by the wayside.

What is important in the digitization of education is not the distribution of devices, but how they are used in the field and what students learn by using them. But teachers are becoming increasingly busy with many duties.

The central government and boards of education should provide assistance to schools, through such measures as the dispatch of support personnel and the development of teaching materials on IT etiquette, instead of leaving up to teachers the tasks of instructing students how to use the devices and handling problems that occur.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 17, 2021.