Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Saturday, 6 February 2010

Like the car, the internet is a wonderful invention. But also like the car which kills 3500 people a year on our roads, the internet and mobile phone technology, have the capacity to damage us.
I have been in discussions recently with clever people at the University of Plymouth who have been conducting studies on the pitfalls of how some young people are using these modern technologies.
Have you ever heard of sexting? This is where a teenager takes a lurid picture of her self with the camera on her mobile phone and sends it by text to the boy friend. A strange thing to do, we might think, but 40% of young people recently surveyed know somebody who has done it. The real problem arises when the young couple separate and the bloke decides it is a good idea to send the explicit picture to all of his mates or post it on face book. A brave new world.
How many of you know that many game consoles have access to the internet? This means that your child or grandchild can be up in their bedroom ostensibly playing an action game on the DSi Nintendo but in fact surfing the World Wide Web and enjoying all of its delights without any supervision.
This must be one of the first times in history where a technology has been better understood and mastered by minors rather than adults. But herein lays the rub. They may be more skilled at using these modern miracles – but they are still children and prone to make the same errors of judgements that young people have always made. Here is a three pronged survival kit for adults:
1.    Parents and grandparents have to better understand – not how the stuff works, that is impossible – but what it is capable of doing. We cannot leave this all to the schools.
2.    We need to talk and listen to our children constantly about how they are using these systems and discussing how they can do so safely.
3.    We need to encourage them to think before they click. An image once sent online can never be deleted – it may come back to haunt you later on.
We cannot un-invent this technology, nor should we ban our offspring from using it as we have not banned the car. But we should set limits, maintain a dialogue and remember they are still children. What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 13:25