The internet is possibly mankind’s greatest invention in recent memory and an invaluable tool which many of us rely on. As with any technology, the internet is open to abuse, and not always suitable for adolescents. The huge amount of pornography, aggressive behavior and 24 hour news coverage isn’t an ideal situation for children. However, I strongly believe it’s far too easy to blame the open nature of the internet and parents have to take responsibility for using computers as a means to keep children occupied. Furthermore, there’s no excuse as modern versions of Windows include parental controls to restrict websites, and only grant internet access during specific times. On another note, the internet is designed to be a completely open concept and any discussion about blocking websites to protect children is dangerous and a form of censorship. It’s not a difficult concept that any internet access by a minor should be supervised. Similarly, blocking inappropriate content at an ISP level doesn’t prepare children for the tough reality of modern life.
However, this is only my viewpoint, and I’m not a medical professional. In an interview with the BBC, Cyber Psychologist Professor Mary Aiken said the internet as configured is “not fit for purpose”. Professor Aiken is director of the Cyber Psychology Research Centre at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and advises the European policing agency, Europol as well as the United Nations. She also went onto discuss the harmful psychological effects of the internet and said:
“I wouldn’t allow children to use the internet as it stands”,
“It’s too easy to make parents exclusively responsible for children in a cyber context – we don’t do that in the real world, we don’t expect parents to man the doors to bars […] or man the cigarette counters in newsagents”.
“it’s not a stretch to think that children won’t suffer from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of being exposed to this content”.
While I do agree that certain sections of the internet can be harmful to children, it can also be just as harmful to adults too. The aggressive and often hurtful comments made to other people just because they have an opposing viewpoint is frankly, pathetic. This isn’t the internet’s fault but a wider problem with society in general and the way in which people behave. For some bizarre reason, many human beings actually believe their opinion equals the truth when it’s really just a personal viewpoint. Without getting too sidetracked, the most important thing to remember is you cannot protect children from nasty people or dark corners of the internet forever. There is a global mental health problem and the internet is one of the factors. Despite this, it doesn’t mean the right thing to do is simply to stop internet access to minors. It’s very simple, parents need to put some effort into learning about the internet, their options and never leave their child unsupervised for a prolonged amount of time.