Australia’s Big Mother
I had earlier written about the Australian Government’s efforts in protecting families from Internet porn by providing free filters that were broken by a schoolboy in 30 minutes.
Undeterred, the Australian Government continues with its NetAlert safety initiative. At the launch in Sydney, Olympic swimmer Kieren Perkins said, “It’s not negative, a Big Brother. More like Big Mother, protecting you and your kids from what’s out there.”
It’s certainly a good thing for governments to take the initiative in protecting children from inappropriate content online. The problem is that this particular Big Mother isn’t that effective.
In addition to inappropriate content, there are bigger and nastier dangers out there.
Personally, I prefer the approach advocated by Kiwi organisation NetSafe. They say that, “Critical thinking skills and education are key to keeping kids safe online- not least because they are portable, and travel with children when they visit friends’ houses or internet cafes…”
“…as children get older, they are more and more able to get around technological barriers such as filtering and safe search engines. (It also pays to remember that problems like bullying online are not prevented by filtering or safe search tools).”
I think that parents have to prepare their children to participate safely in online worlds, not try to cocoon them. For a child to gain the skills and confidence to safely participate in, say, social networking sites, when they are old enough, I prefer the NetSafe approach over Big Mother.
NetSafe through its charitable subsidiary Hector’s World is doing a great job for kids. The Hector Safety Button seems to be pitched just right and the five animated educational videos (from the main Hector’s World website) speak to kids in their language.
My kids say the videos are very interesting and that level of praise is given rarely. The kids seem to have got the right messages, finally, so for me that’s proof enough that Big Mother is not the way to go.