Children grow up … we want them to grow up educated with the knowledge and the confidence to access and use the Internet beneficially.

So, it’s really important that the Trinidad & Tobago community equips its children and youth with online literacy skills, and empowers them to recognize and avoid dangers on the Internet.

The Internet is a place for learning and for opportunity.

The Internet offers parents, guardians and educators unprecedented access to information and the ability to play a more direct role in deciding what their children see. They can positively select content for their children that matches each child’s age, culture, intellectual capacity, education etc. They don’t have to wait for, or be satisfied with what a radio or television broadcaster might give them.

Every child is an individual with individual needs.

Children can be protected and influenced, not controlled.

  • Over-control of legitimate access can result in children seeking alternate and/or unsupervised access routes.
  • Saying “no”, without other options, can make the “forbidden” content more enticing.
  • Prohibiting access to media does not stop the content from being accessed. Unless the material is entirely unavailable, those who seek hard enough will find it.
  • Overly strict control over media may result in children seeking the content elsewhere, where there is less control.

Early education and ongoing trusted influencers (parents, guardians, educators, peers) help support children emerge into adulthood and beyond.

Awareness and education are keys to children:

  • mastering available ICT tools
  • making good decisions, alone and in groups
  • growing into positive and effective netizens
  • building for the future economy, society, and next generation

Local institutional (e.g. school) or individual parental computer level (home) filtering may be appropriate in some cases, and is preferable to network level filtering, relevantly, because these trusted influencers are best placed to decide what content is appropriate for each child. But, these tools have also may have a tendency to over-block or under-block access to content. Plus, filtering at the network level has additional adverse effects.

So, it is important that parents, educators, guardians, peers and government (e.g. through funding educational institutions) educate children and young people on risks and responsibilities they may encounter when using the Internet, and empower them to use the Internet safely.

More reading: http://www.internetsociety.org/children-and-internet

Christine Runnegar
Director, Public Policy
Internet Society