Catholic Sixth Formers call for tighter internet controls

panel members in lively discussion

panel members in lively discussion

Sixth formers at two Catholic schools in south west London have called  for tighter policing of social networking web sites and greater restrictions to prevent under-18s accessing adult material on the net.

The students - from the Ursuline High School in Wimbledon and the Jesuit Wimbledon College - were taking part in Generations Question Together, with the theme: 'Computers - A blessing for our society?' They were joined on the platform by older parishioners of Sacred Heart Church, in a wide-ranging discussion chaired by the parish's Youth Worker, James Potter.

The panellists all agreed that computers and the internet could provide considerable benefits, especially in the areas of medicine, research and entertainment. But there were severe criticisms of social network sites such as Facebook and Bebo not monitoring their sites more closely to prevent abuse, threatening behaviour and bullying. And serious concerns were expressed at the willingness of children to post up their personal details freely on such sites, including their dates of birth and addresses.

Some of the Sixth Formers also gave examples of some of the younger members of their families being able to access violent games and other adult material, simply by ticking a box that stated they were over 18 years of age. They lamented the fact that some children's childhoods were over before they had even properly begun, because of the influence of celebrity web sites and easily accessible games with violent or pornographic content. And they received widespread agreement from the teenage audience and adult parishioners when they called for there to be tighter age restrictions on such sites.

The impact of computers and the internet on education was also highlighted at the Generations Question Together - the second such event to be held at Wimbledon College. The students were critical of sites such as Wikipedia where there is no certainty as to their factual accuracy, and they urged the pupils to use libraries and books more in their studies: "You don't learn from copying and pasting!" said one Ursuline student. Another recommended using dictionaries, rather than trusting spell-checking on their computers, in order to improve their writing skills. And all agreed that social skills, family relationships
and interpersonal communication all suffered if children failed to interact with each other and other members of their communities - one of the principal reasons behind the Inter-Generational activities at Wimbledon.

Overall, the panel concluded that any invention, including computer technology, can be a force for good or ill. What was needed, they agreed, was for young users to be made fully aware of the opportunities and the dangers of such technology; to be encouraged to use it as a tool for learning and social interaction, not to become slaves to it; and for the companies who provide potentially harmful web sites to act more responsibly and work harder to protect the vulnerable.

Source: Jesuit Communications

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