Mandatory Filters

Andy Halsall : Parenting by proxy

In a week where there has been a lot of argument about what Internet service providers and search engines should do to protect children and adults from harmful content online, we seem to have lost sight of what we want to achieve. The government, it seems, wants to teach children how to use technology and the internet, but at the same time presents a view of the internet as a medium where grave danger exists around every digital corner. This sends a contradictory message to parents about their responsibilities and does nothing to provide the resources needed to meet them.

As a parent, I know that the internet can't be treated like television. It may seem like a silly statement, but it's one that happens to be accurate and is important to determine how the internet is used and managed in the home. You can't turn the internet on and switch to a children’s channel. Sure there are sandboxes for children to play in on-line, but they are easy to get out of and metaphorically walk away from.

I think that we need to treat children using the internet more like we do when they play outside rather than when they watch a film. You can't filter the internet to the point where there is no danger, any more than you can filter the outside. Online they are interacting with other people, exploring new places and discovering new ideas. And like when they play outside, there are some dangers, but none, as in the wider world, that cannot be mitigated by supervision and awareness, if parents know where to look.