NST Leader: Online child safety

Minors have insidiously morphed into sexual predators, indoctrinated by smut and sinister content infesting the World Wide Web, which makes these child predators dangerous cyber-savvy imbeciles, based on the increasing statutory rape cases involving them annually.

Some predators start early, 9-year-olds raping and sexually assaulting girls their own age. The inevitable broadsides have emerged: experts urging more cybersecurity awareness and sex education, undoubtedly a sensible alarm, but resisted by others with ultraconservative consternation.

Child protection is the responsibility of parents, educators and policymakers, but the politicians have it easy: their go-to demand to ban dodgy websites is always acquiesced.

Educators issue standard recommendations: instal parental control software and configure device and browser settings to block malevolent content.

The real heavy lifting lies with parents, some unleashing drastic measures to stop their child's brain rot, especially if they are preschoolers. Internet software-savvy minors aren't bothered with their parents freaking out: filter all they like, but it just takes a virtual private network app, a workaround alien to most parents, to circumvent the controls.

This is where it gets horrendous: realising the futility of software policing, they resort to withholding smartphones and tablets, at least until their children are more mature.

There's a silver lining here: children deprived of digital devices are compelled to entertain themselves the way their parents did when they were kids. It's a traditional but vanishing checklist: reading books, painting and colouring, playing with building blocks, educational toys and puzzles, running, jumping and skipping at residential playgrounds, learning to play musical instruments, swimming and socialising at playhouses.

The only digital treat allowed are universally rated Disney movies and cartoons, watched together, though certain animated or live-action series are prohibited due to its addictive and psychological drawbacks.

This child-rearing strategy is a hit-and-miss: observe children whose parents provide unlimited use of digital devices and how their worldview, being virtually glued to the devices, are sculpted, not by parental nurturing, but by the makers of the apps.

By the time the parents sense their kids' mental and physical degradation, it may be too late. Parents who try to wrestle the devices away are shocked by the children's violent reaction: the kids scream bloody murder, scamper like a maniac, roll on the floor or knock their heads against the wall.

Panicked parents capitulate to the quaking histrionics and feebly return the device. Commotion is averted, but the kids' abysmal mental and physical make-up remains deadlocked. We haven't even begun to fully understand the apps' surreptitious functions and the privacy data they ravenously consume.

Then there's the clamour for primary school sex education to teach minors personal boundaries and appropriate behaviour that prevents grooming and exploitation, and situations leading to sexual deviancy.

To be sure, this scenario is a cliché: as always, religious and conservative misapprehension sidestep these good intentions. In any case, most beleaguered parents still find formal sex education awkward, hoping that their children will soon "learn on their own", just as they did.

Most Popular
Related Article
Says Stories