A recent high profile trial in this State brought to the surface many talking points, not least the free availability of extreme violence and pornography which is a couple of clicks away on every smartphone in the country.
I have a feeling that many parents are not aware of the stuff that is flying around on the Internet every day of the week. Some of the stuff that is appearing on Whatsapp and other facilities that are available on any smartphone is truly frightening and disturbing.
For example, this week images of the injuries suffered by a 13-year-old girl who was attacked in Fermanagh were widely available and being passed on by hundreds of thousands of people. Last year a video of a person who was killed in an accident on the M50 was widely circulated. Every day, violent rows and every kind of extreme sexual and violent behaviour is shared – and it goes around like wildfire.
It’s only the tip of the iceberg as hundreds of these messages and videos are shared every single day, without any censorship at all. That’s quite apart from all the porn and violent sites that are just a click away as well.
Most mature adults would be able to deal with this carry-on without too much bother, but God only knows what effect it is having on young people. I hear politicians appealing for restrictions on these major companies – which is an honourable stance to take – but that ship has sailed a long time ago. Restricting them here would be impossible unless the same restrictions were to apply in every other country as well.
The responsibility for this stuff being seen by young people has to be with parents. Buying a smartphone for a 10 to 12 year old is not a good idea if it is not monitored strictly. They are powerful mini-laptops in your pocket.
That’s not even to mention the whole vexed question of bullying. A report this week reveals that most of the online bullying that goes on among school going kids happens at night. So when your little darlings go up the stairs at night with their smartphone in their hand, anything could be happening. I know that it’s scary, but it’s a reality.
Social media has been a phenomenon of the modern age. Applications like Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook and all the others have some great advantages and have been a very positive addition to many people’s lives in this era of instant news.
There is a very dark side to it too – that’s the reality. Parents just have to take responsibility for what their kids are looking at. Expecting the politicians to do it isn’t the answer.
In the next month there will be many requests from young people for their parents to buy them a smartphone for Christmas. It would be wise to stop and think about the responsibility having that phone brings. Most kids are okay and well adjusted and unlikely to do anything very serious, but there are those who would be adversely affected by looking at this material.