Posted May 23, 2014, By Natalie Honan, Creative Producer
Do Internet filters and parental controls offer parents and teachers false security? Or even an easy option in favour of the time it takes to educate a generation?
It seems to be general consensus that education is always the way forward. Recently we’ve witnessed a new surge in educating children about appropriate contact with adults, and the ‘Underwear Rule’ introducing safety zones, and where children do (and should) feel uncomfortable being touched. This is a great movement, because it’s not all about pointing out the areas that are off-bounds, but also allowing children to trust their own discomfort, and giving them the confidence to identify when they feel that a relationship isn’t what it should be.
These are vitally important lessons to learn.
But what of the relationship divided by a screen? There is no physical contact in online grooming, so the education piece here needs to be just as strong.
Parental controls can block children from using chat rooms, social networking sites, and all pornography – including more specific keywords such as ‘abortion’, ‘alcohol’, ‘gambling’ etc. Now, my issue with this is that some children and teenagers out there actually need access to sites discussing these topics. What happens when they have important questions, or have experienced something that they feel they can’t talk to an adult about? Should they be kept in their safety-bubble in these instances, where it may actually be to their detriment?
I remember being at school and doing a textiles project on contour fashion. It was about sculpting, shapes, and corsetry, and I couldn’t access any websites featuring underwear – be it online shops or technical textile sites – leaving me unable to complete my work on school grounds. Not an issue in this day and age where I could have just pulled out my iPad and accessed on my 3G, but this was 15 years ago. No one had tablets, and not everyone even had an Internet connection at home. So what of those people?
There are several reasons why parental controls aren’t the answer, but what I want to know is if the restriction of potentially necessary content is worth the elimination of some danger? No filters will protect your child completely, and they all have their flaws. But on the flip side, is educating them enough? Trusting our children is one thing, but if we trust them online, we have to also trust every person they come into contact with online. And of course we can’t, and shouldn’t do that.
The sophistication of restriction technology is always increasing, so its seems that for now the answer is a combination of an open dialogue with your children about the dangers of the internet, paired with restrictions on the absolute taboos.
We can’t watch them forever, so let’s make sure we don’t need to.