Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Think of the Children

I found this interesting quote from Zaman newspaper regarding the Turkish government's decision to institute Internet filters.

Some NGOs say Internet filters may reduce cyber crime

….According to some critics, the regulation will mark the “death of the Internet” in Turkey. Some others, on the other hand, say that it will help fight and reduce cyber crimes. Yasemin Çoban, a board member of the Association for the Protection and Support of Family (AKODER), said the BTK regulation will not introduce a mechanism of censorship on the use of the Internet. Rather, it is aimed at protecting children and families.

I met over 30,000 people in the past six years [who complain about the harm of unsupervised use of the Internet.] None of them told me that they would like their children to have access to any website they wish. We need to end freedoms at a point when they threaten our children or family values. If the BTK does not do this [for the Internet,] how will we protect our children as parents?” Çoban asked.

Think of the CHILDREN!

This is a running gag on The Simpsons. One of the characters, Helen Lovejoy, the minister's wife, usually exclaims this whenever there is a crisis, whatever the relevance.

This type of justification is discussed in this Wikipedia entry:'s_interests . It isn't the first time it has been used to rationalize censorship. 

Internet censorship and content-control software of offensive material is often justified as being done "for the children". One of the most large-scale examples was Green Dam Youth Escort, which was a failed attempt by the People's Republic of China to mandate internet content-control for all children in the country (it had numerous failures and controversies).

The thing I've never understood about this rationalization is why anybody on earth would want the government taking over the duties of parenting? Why do people think the government would make better decisions about raising their children than they themselves. In terms of making intelligent decisions, most governments'  track records, generally speaking, aren't all that great. Politicians routinely get caught lying and stealing or in some sexual embarrassment but some people are still eager to allow these very same people to decide what is morally permissible.

I am of the belief that the most important trait that parents can instill in their child is to develop his or her own conscience. To know right from wrong without being told by the clergy or the government.

And as Samuel Butler tells us,

The first duty of a conscientious person is to have his or her conscience absolutely under his or her own control.

So, leaving the parenting to the government simply seems a abrogation of the responsibility.  

Here's what unsupervised children do.  There ought to be a law against this!
Ban Crayons and Magic Markers NOW.

The only thing the government needs to do is to encourage parents to take a more pro-active role and to support education about the Internet. how to use it properly, how parents can manage it effectively and how to shield their children from harmful sites. No need for making everybody into a criminal.

Viewing this on a less philosophical level, this problem does not require such a blanket imposition at all.  It can be handled sufficiently individually. With a little bit of education by ISPs and  by parent's taking a more active interest, suitable internet filters can be arranged at home. It is not that hard.  Internet Service Providers should be doing more to educate parents on how to install controls on their home computers.

Internet cafes may be another story and may require some minor legislation  (or actual enforcement of the laws already on the books)  but then, it does beg the question why parents, if they are so concerned about this, allow their children so much unsupervised time on the net?

Go to any Internet and you can see children spending hours and hours there. Who is at fault in that case? The government? And, to conclude my rant, most of those children are NOT perusing porn sites. They are feverishly hunting down virtual enemies and graphically exploding their heads with assault rifles and AK-47s. But, for some reason, we don't hear so much talk about that aspect.

(I know, I am being naïve. It isn't about that. It's really about making and enforcing  a standard morality of all citizens. One size fits all, yani.)

Update: There's an interesting article in Zaman newspaper about the expat reaction to the bans. "Big Brother" by ASHLEY PERKS

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  1. Hee! I was just off to edit a post I ranted last night that I'm pretty sure contains at least a paragraph on this very topic. The comments over at Kamilpasha got to you too!

  2. Dear Nomad, I agree with you 100%. This unctuous taking over of parental duties is just not on. I really can't guess what lies ahead for us here in Turkey and let's not forget the forthcoming election ....


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