If you’re in England and a parent, guardian and/or educator you should be responding to the Department for Education’s consultation on Parental Internet Controls.
The assumptions behind it are quite staggering.
It would appear that the government believes that the best way of ‘protecting’ young people is to shield them from ever accessing ‘inappropriate’ material online.
This is wrong for several reasons:
- Despite your best efforts, all young people will at some point come across inappropriate things online
- Any tool you use to block inappropriate sites will be a fairly blunt instrument leading to false positives
- Blocking tools tend to lead to a false sense of security by parents, guardians and educators
- Who decides what’s ‘inappropriate’?
The best filter resides in the head, not in a router or office of an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
I don’t want my internet connection to be filtered in ‘the best interests of my children’. I don’t want to be subject to censorship.
I’ve responded to the consultation. I’ve pointed out that their questions are sometimes unfairly worded. For example, I want to respond for one particular question that I don’t think ‘automatic’ parental controls should be in place in any households.
It’s about education, not censorship. Make sure you respond to the consultation, please!
My son, Ben, like most toddlers, has a routine. This includes, every night before bed, watching In The Night Garden. Now before anyone accuses us of being bad parents, let me just point out that he watches the programme, then goes in the bath, is read a story, has his milk and then goes to bed. 🙂
If you haven’t seen In The Night Garden before, you really should – it’s quite an experience. Each episode is around 30 minutes long, but you can get a flavour from this YouTube video:
I’ve watched most of the episodes several times by now. We record them all as the BBC, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to screen the programme in the morning instead of during CBeebies Bedtime Hour.
The above is by way of prelude to my main point. The programme (probably intentionally) can put you into a state of not quite being awake and not quite being asleep. In that rather nice state of consciousness I got to thinking just how much like an ideal communist society it is:
- The characters have all of their needs provided for, yet no-one is in overall control (do they ‘own the means of production’, though?)
- There is no monetary system.
- Men, women and children are of equal status.
- There is no mention of, or reference to, religion – the garden just exists.
- In the most innocent way imaginable there is ‘free love’ – in that everyone kisses everyone else.
- Liberal parenting (in the form of the Pontipines) prevails.
Whilst I’m sure the group who conceived and produced the show aren’t raging communists, it does make you think of the values being explicitly and implicitly inculcated into even the youngest of children… :-p
There’s a great interview with the comedienne Sue Perkins in The Word magazine this month in which she puts in a nutshell what I think a lot of people feel:
It’s the curse of our society, the relentless pursuit of unimportant things, a terrible capitalist trap. Our society as become, ‘Have you met targets? Have you failed or succeeded?’ I permanently feel like I’m chasing my tail. I feel like a victim of that. Teachers, they’re constantly told they’re disappointing and equally, children. Children are told the exams they’re sitting [snootily], ‘Oh they aren’t as clever as when we were doing O-levels.’ Can you imagine? To be told what you’re trying to achieve is meaningless? Coupled, again, with expectation, with the spectre of failure everywhere. Kids are just bombarded by depressing notions all the time. About how dreadful they are. It’s all labelling, so early. I think the kids are f***ed.
So true. I must pay tribute to the genius that is The Word. I subscribed after buying the first issue and this one is number 50. It doesn’t just look at stuff that’s being marketed and it refuses to bow down to the god of 5-star ratings. Pure genius, it really is…