Being parents on the Internet

Yesterday I had a conversation with a person with first-hand knowledge on the havoc caused by the Internet on some teenagers and their families. His thesis, in my opinion somewhat radical, is that a child or teenager should not have unsupervised Internet access until reaching maturity. This has made me question some of my own principles, which I believe were firm, on the free access to information. Below is the result of my reflections.

I want to clarify that I am against information control. A mature person should be able to distinguish whether or not a piece of information is true and to ascertain the issuer’s intentions. This is why I don’t believe in censorship administered by a higher institution; what I do believe is that the adults themselves should be their own censor. However, children are naïve by nature, the stimuli they receive require supervision, and the parents’ duty is to know and even censor that stimuli if they do not consider them appropriate until the child has a mature personality. This does not mean that children should agree with their parents’ opinion; in fact, I believe that critical thought, even rebellion, is one of the first symptoms that they are reaching intellectual maturity.

Use common sense, the Internet is not that different from the rest of the world. As in the real world, there are appropriate and inappropriate stimuli for children. Children alone in their room are exposed to all of them. If you don’t allow your children to talk to strangers in the real world, do the same in the Internet. If you don’t have qualms about searching through their personal belongings, check through their search engine history. If you’ve set a nighttime limit, don’t let them stay until the early morning chatting via MSN. If you ask them where they’ve been, ask them what web sites they’ve visited. If you’re concerned with who enters your house, concern yourself with who enters their computers. Obviously they can deceive you, like they do when they go out with their friends. Simply, be on alert in both cases and don’t let your guard down. That is probably the real problem. Children with Internet do not require attention, they don’t trouble you, they enable parents to relax while watching the television in the sitting room. It should be the other way round, parents should take the same precautions when their children lock themselves in their room with the computer and when they leave the house.

Remember that the Internet is another door to the world. A door that provides access to practically unlimited information but, like all doors, it enables flows in both directions. In our homes, we put locks on doors to prevent other people from harming us, whether materially or physically. Perhaps on the Internet physical harm cannot be caused immediately, but other types of harm can be caused to young people.

By Manolo Santos
Saved in: Internet | No comments » | 1 July 2006

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