Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has shown, yet again, that Government fails to understand the Internet. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph he proposed that web sites should only be published once they have cinema style ratings so that parents would know what was acceptable for their children.
What tosh. Is he seriously expecting that every time anyone wants to publish something online they’d have to apply to some central agency who would then take several weeks to reach a decision? Is he seriously expecting that parents would take any notice? Is he seriously expecting that every nation in the world would follow suit?
He extends his idea by claiming that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would then be forced to only provide access to material which has been approved in some way.
Apart from the fact that his ideas are completely unworkable, they’d also be impossible. Technically, you could connect to the Internet without an ISP anyway and besides which, if a British company felt they were restricted by the “approval process” it would only take a matter of minutes to set everything up abroad, out of the clutches of this paranoid Government.
Luckily, the Daily Telegraph itself thinks the plans are nonsense. In a comment piece they said the proposal would be unworkable, but also pointed out that it is down to parents to ensure that children do not access unsuitable material.
Thus it has ever been. Children do see 18-rated movies at a much younger age because they are lent the DVDs by kids in the playground. Children do listen to music with dubious lyrics because they can buy the CDs in the local High Street. Children do see pornographic magazines, because their older brothers let them have a peek.
We already have systems in place to prevent children from seeing what adults deem to be unsuitable. They don’t work because parents fail to ensure they work. Even if it were practicable to produce some system for the Internet (and it isn’t) it would fail because, like Mr Burnham, most parents do not understand the Internet. Once again, Labour’s ignorance of the way the Internet works shows us how important it is that adults learn more about the web in particular. After all, their children understand it very well indeed.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+