It might be better to ban kids from the internet.

Across the West, governments are pushing for more power to regulate cyberspace even as authoritarian political parties are gaining more official power, portending a future in which what people can say online is subject to the whims of ill-meaning bureaucrats.

Often, calls for regulation and even censorship are justified by the highly defensible and probably correct anxiety that the status quo ill-serves the internet’s youngest users.

In the United Kingdom, the government in a white paper recently proposed a crackdown on any website that “allows users to share or discover user-generated content, or interact with each other online.” Its proponents cited that “the impact of harmful content and activity can be particularly damaging for children and young people, and there are growing concerns about the potential impact on their mental health and wellbeing.” And The Guardian noted “growing pressure on the government to act in the wake of the death of teenager Molly Russell,” a 14-year-old whose father believes that “exposure to images of self-harm on social media was a factor in her taking her own life.”

In the United States, cyberbullying and internet safety rank among the top concerns of parents. Their anxiety is not irrational, as Jean M. Twenge argued in a September 2017 cover story in The Atlantic on technology’s role in mental-health problems among teens.

The Washington Post has reported on ISIS’s efforts to recruit children in Western countries. “A 12-year-old German Iraqi boy—guided by an Islamic State contact in the Middle East who warmly addressed him as ‘brother’ and groomed the boy via the encrypted messaging app Telegram—built and tried to detonate a bomb near a shopping center in the western German city of Ludwigshafen,” the newspaper noted. “A 15-year-old girl—the daughter of a German convert to Islam and a Moroccan mother—was sentenced to six years in prison for an attack last February on a German police officer in Hanover. She gouged him in the neck with a kitchen knife, causing life-threatening injuries after being befriended and cajoled by an Islamic State instructor via a text messaging service.”

With each viral story about terrifying harms, political pressure for new rules that protect kids is likely to grow. Perhaps the best way forward is to try to come up with a regulatory regime that strikes the right balance between free speech for all (adults) and the well-being …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Best of

      

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An Internet for Kids

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