Children and Censorship

Jane Mitra, Parents Information Network, wrote this article in 1997.

Parental responsibility for use of the Internet cannot be avoided as an issue in families. By having a computer with Internet access in a family area of the home instead of, for example, in a child's bedroom or a workroom, not only can parents supervise access, they are also on hand to deal with any problems or queries a child may have.

Another potential benefit is that parents will probably learn more about the use of the Internet from their children than from anywhere else, so family use of the Net can be a positive learning experience rather than a punitive policing of children's activities online.

Censorship of the Internet is not workable or desirable but we do need to find a way to enforce existing laws on published and broadcast material. Also, individual users need good filtering software to prevent unwanted access to material they feel is inappropriate for display on their home computer.

To make filtering effective, all Web sites need to be rated for content. It is important that a common standard is adopted so that anyone wanting to screen sites will always know exactly what is likely to be screened out. Newsgroups should, ideally, have a similar rating system to Web sites. Although this is not possible at the moment, efforts must be made to devise a solution to the technical problems involved.

The whole issue of what is acceptable on the Internet should be discussed and explored with all members of a family, particularly as children are more likely to co-operate with a code they have helped to develop. They should be encouraged to share their experiences with their parents or guardians so that any online text, image or sound which they find uncomfortable can be followed up by parents. One channel of complaint which we would advise parents to use, if the need arises, is through their Internet service provider.

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