Proposed law on children’s internet use

 

Sir, – It seems extraordinary to me that at a time when there are in Ireland significant numbers of children living in poverty, homeless, not having their health needs met, being significantly discriminated against as in the case of Traveller, Roma and Refugee children, that cyber-risk is identified as “the single greatest threat to children in our time” (“TD proposes fining parents who fail to control children’s internet use”, May 10th).

If the primary aim of the recently proposed legislation is, as it is reported, to force device manufacturers to develop a child-friendly mobile phone with limited access to the web, why does the proposed legislation not specifically set out to do this rather than to target parents for more responsibilisation and indeed criminalisation?

The proposed Bill seems be driven by a notion that children go online to access pornography, when the reality is that children go online for a wide variety of reasons and because going online is enjoyable and good for them.

Internet use is known to benefit children’s learning; health and wellbeing; literacy; civic and/or political participation; play; identity development; sense of belonging; peer, family and intergenerational relationships; their understandings of risk; and resilience.

The key question which the Government and other stakeholders should address is how to afford children protection from harm online while empowering them to maximise the opportunities of the digital age.

In order to begin to answer such a question and to avoid the rush to legislation punishing parents, there is a need to engage children so that they can also speak and not just be spoken for. – Yours, etc,

ELIZABETH KIELY,

Senior Lecturer

in Social Policy,

University College Cork.