Children and the Internet

Children and the Internet

Although the U.S. created the Internet in the 1960s as a communications tool for the military, it was not until after the government opened it to the public in the late 1980s that the Internet became a unique communications phenomenon. Nobody could predict the speed by which people all over the world grabbed onto this new form of technological communication. In 1995, there were an estimated 56 million Internet users worldwide; by 1999, this figure is expected to rise to 200 million. This tremendous growth has caused something our world has never seen before; for the first time in history, the governments of this planet are facing something that is larger than all of them combined . . . and they are terrified. A wealth of information is readily available to those who possess the technological means to access and contribute to it. It is the place where "any person can become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox" (Sheremata 22). This has made the Internet a very powerful and positive forum for free expression. Parents, however, are concerned that the Internet makes pornographic, hateful, violent, profane and destructive content easily accessible to their children. But who is ultimately responsible for keeping the Internet safe for children: parents, educators, Internet service providers or the government? And how can one regulate this new form of communication without infringing on peoples\' right to freedom of expression?

Some would say that the Internet needs to be regulated by eliminating all pornographic, destructive, violent and hateful web sites. This would ensure the protection and welfare of everyone\'s children. Pornography and "adult-oriented sites" are the main part of the Internet that parents do not want their children to have access to. From text to images, the graphic portrayals of almost every form of sexual activity are available to anyone regardless of age or gender. Without any restrictions one may view these images or read these "stories" within a few minutes of logging onto the Net. Making Internet service providers (ISPs) delete all the pornography may be the key to getting rid of Internet smut.

Hate propaganda is not a recent symptom of the Net but has grown significantly in the past few years. The Internet has more than 150 extreme web sites, offering a vast array of racist literature and graphics. The propaganda that these racist sites publish is believed to be detrimental to children\'s welfare and mental stability. Anti-Semitic views and harassment are also part of the hate propaganda expressed on the Net. Many people think that the Internet should be free from such racism and hate, and that getting rid of these web sites would be beneficial for all.

Another problem with the Internet is all the sites that contain destructive and violent texts. Recipes for things like how to make pipe bombs have parents worried. Parents become very frightened for the safety of their children when they can make a bomb from household materials. About two years ago at a bus terminal near Erminskin Shopping Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, a teenager placed a homemade pipe bomb into a watermelon that blew not only the watermelon apart along but the bus terminal as well. Such recipes for disaster are everywhere on the net and should be eliminated before more children get hurt or killed.

Children are vulnerable to what they see and read on the Internet. Pornography, hate propaganda, and violent content is upsetting, confusing and can give children incorrect information and can also be emotionally destructive. They don\'t have the knowledge to decide whether this material is good for them or not and cannot differentiate between healthy and unhealthy sexual activity. Children are easily influenced and should not be able to view or access such sites which contain pornography or hate propaganda. Canadian law states that a person must be 18 or older to purchase erotica, yet a child of nine can access such pictures on the Net that would make most adults sick.

Hate propaganda on the net may recruit kids into cults or influence their beliefs so that they exhibit racist behaviours. Also, any user can enter a hate web-site, and download pages of text and graphics