} Lalith Abeysinghe: May 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Safe use of the Internet- is there any way?

Safe use of the Internet- is there any way?

One day, some time ago a Medical Doctor, a friend of mine visited me for a chat. His wife too is a doctor. Among many things we talk about the computers and internet.

Many people, especially the parents used to ask me, is it a good idea to buy a computer for their children as they say that they need it. My first reaction is to say ‘yes’, as I believe that these children need it. I am in the opinion that, these children should have an opportunity to ‘meddle’ with the computer and learn it as the computer skills is a ‘must’ today. It was my personal experience too. I ‘learned’ to ‘use’ the computer even just to type some articles with lots of difficulties. I also saw the very young ones learn quickly and was able to ‘teach’ the adults. Once I went to Monaragala and wanted to get a copy of an email from an Internet Cafe. I didn’t know how to do it. I asked the young lad to help me with this ‘operation’. He did something and got it. I had a chat with him and asked him what sort of knowledge he has with the computer. He said he could do all the things. I asked him, how and from where he learned these things. He laughed at me and said, he didn’t learn them from any body, but just meddling with the computer and learned and eventually he had explored everything.

Hence, I am rather a computer ‘illiterate’ compare to the skills and the knowledge the school children and the youth have on this subject. I normally ‘consult’ the youngsters to solve any computer related problem and in most of the time they were able to advice me and have solved those problems. Many times I used to ask lot of computer related questions from a journalist friend of mine who is bit elder to me but, know about computers than me. He was the one who gave me lots of information on Blogs, Face book, websites, how to make access, how to contribute to an article and how to create ‘accounts’ etc.

The problem of my doctor friend is whether the children should give access to the computer and to the internet. He was rather worried, as he has a computer with internet facilities at home. He has a son and a daughter schooling at leading schools and most of the time they are alone at home, as the parents are doctors and work till late evenings. I then ‘advised’ him to keep the computer in the sitting room and not in the bedroom, as I have read something similar to this situation.

Though he raised this concern with regard to his own situation, I guess, most of the parents face with the similar situation.

As I am not very much a computer literate, and know very basic things, I went to a ‘computer shop’ in the town and ask them about a ‘pass word’ to be used as a security tool. They simply laughed at it. They said that they can put a ‘pass word’, but it is also possible to bypass it, if one knows the techniques. I asked the shop owner, whether an ‘average’ youngster could do this. He said that ‘they are experts’! I asked one of the Telecom technician, when he visited to resolve some problems, whether it is possible to ‘bloc’ the internet use. He said it is difficult. His advice is to ‘remove the modem when you go out from home’.

For the last several months, I sort of ‘researched’ and tried several things in the net, though I have a very limited knowledge. I was really surprised. You ‘click’ “anything” it is promptly there on your computer. It was so easy and ‘user friendly’. I found and realized it as I have very limited computer skills. I was able to ‘come across’ ‘any damn thing’ and could imagine how a youngster, who normally meddle with a computer most of the time and who also has ‘followed’ a ‘computer course’ at least in basics enter in to the world of internet. . During this time it was reported that the government has taken some steps to ‘ban’ and ‘bloc’ some websites. Few days later, a weekly news paper reported that, even though the government banned some of these websites, it is ‘very easy’ to find the alternatives. They have given some of the links too. In the same time, some of the people were in the opinion that no body should ‘control’ these as there should be a ‘freedom’ to access to any thing. They argue that, if it goes on like this, the authorities may decide what the people should read.

This is really a big problem for the youth in the country and for the parents in particular. The so called IT education, a catchy phrase of the youth in a way aggravates this situation. Most of the parents do not know ‘anything’ about the computer, IT and Internet. They find money to send their children for IT and computer education. Most of the parents some how finds money and buy a computer for their children. Most of the children do have the ‘cell phones’ too. They usually go for the more sophisticated type and stress the need with their parents. When these ‘children’ go to buy a cell phone or a computer with their parents to the shop, the parents used to keep their mouth shut and the children keep talking with the salesmen and indicate the needs, the type, the brand and every thing. The parents are there only to pay the bill. Most of these cell phones too now have internet access. Apart from this, the youth usually meet at the ‘Internet Cafes’. The popular ‘themes’ of the discussions are probably the IT and Internet related themes. The computer games are very popular among the youth and children, thus interact with the computer most of the time. Most of them ‘devote’ most of their time to interact in the face Book. Some of them are seen addicted to the Internet and Cell phones.

Some of the parents are quite happy to see that their children ‘working’ with the computer. When a visitor comes, they happily say that their son/daughter is working always with the computer. They really mean that the children are ‘studying’ with the computer!

The ‘development’ of the technology, surely creates big problems, though they improve the ‘quality’ and the ‘efficiency’ of the work and the life. The internet, though improve lots of aspects of human life, the ‘information flow’ for example, it creates many problems too. I used to ask and inquire about these things from my friends. They say it is very difficult to control this. They say that anybody have access to any thing. They say as soon as one types something on ‘search’ it comes. I too tried this and it is true. It does not count that the ‘search’ is academic, ethical or any thing. It is a matter of a ‘click’.

This is a worry for most of the parents. Some of the parents, who have bought computers and internet links for their children, now have taken steps to disconnect them. This is a pathetic situation and there should be systems develop to make this computer and internet use more secure.

Could some one help with the following questions?

  1. Is it good to make children access to the computers and internet?
  2. If it ‘yes’, what is the most appropriate age?
  3. Is it good to encourage children to deal with this ‘Face Book’? ( How ever I do not know much about the FB, though I have one, which is created and passed on to me by sister’s daughter)
  4. Is it good for the children to involve in ‘computer games’?
  5. Are there any systems to make access only to the educational/ academic websites?
  6. Are there any systems to control the internet access at the home level?
  7. Is it good to have a centrally controlled authority to ‘block’ these ‘unnecessary/ unethical website?

    Lalith Abeysinghe.