Think of the Children!

The subject of this post is a catchphrase you can hear in just about any technical discussion group. It’s usually stated in a cynical manner as justification for why something seemingly stupid has been incorporated into a piece of software.

Today the BBC website has this article on why social networking sites now need a “Help Button” so that children can report concerns about bullying. I find it amazing that when it comes to the Internet, normal morals and standards don’t apply. There’s been bullying in schools since the days of Tom Brown’s Schooldays and probably before that but so far we haven’t installed Help Buttons in the classrooms and playgrounds. Is this negligence on the part of schools? No, of course not.

In other aspects of life, parents are tasked with raising their chiildren to recognize the dangers around them. For example, they teach them to swim in a controlled and safe environment. To not talk to strangers and to not go out after dark. Failure to teach these basic rules of life would be considered negligence on the part of the parents, yet when it comes to the Internet the rules are reversed and blame rests with the providers of services. In many cases, free services. It’s like saying the sweetshop owner is responsible for childrens teeth or that Tesco is responsible for obesity. I guess it’s just part of the modern blame culture but it really annoys me (as a provider of free service on the Internet) to see this offloading of blame to anyone that offers a service.

The Internet is like a chainsaw, unsafe by it’s very nature for unsupervised, young children. Not many parents will buy their young children chainsaws for Christmas this year but a great many will put Internet connected computers in their bedrooms and leave them to learn on their own.

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