The assignment is to create a PowerPoint presentation with pictures and the basic information about a Greek god or goddess. A little ten-year-old girl is excited to get started on a project that has more of a creative and visual element to it. She logs onto the school computer and goes to Google images through the school’s homepage. Z-E-U-S ENTER. Nudity is everywhere. There are so many penises and naked men. Everywhere.
Children are astonishingly curious and have a passion to learn, yet they are oh-so naïve. As adults, we are accustomed to typing in specifics on the internet to ensure we find what we’re searching for. Children are not so fortunate. As soon as they begin using search engines, they start finding things so upsetting to their innocent minds that the internet becomes a game of Russian roulette. I argue that there should be a safety net in place so children cannot accidently be exposed to nudity on the internet.
But wait, you can’t change the whole internet. Some people would argue that it’s not possible. The internet is a whole other world. It is so vast that it can’t be thoroughly changed. There must be billions and trillions of pictures, pages, websites, and articles. It simply is not feasible to even fathom the idea of change on that wide of a scale. Plus, the internet is not meant for the sole purpose of children’s needs. What about all of the adults? What if they don’t all want change? Adults don’t need child protections.
The internet does not need a full-scale change. That type of alteration is, admittedly, probably impossible. But that’s not what children need either. The thing to remember is that adults already know the dos and don’ts of search engines. Children are still learning. We forget what it’s like to be that vulnerable. We have to remind ourselves that while the content may not surprise us, or may be filtered out through our searches, others are harmed by what they might find. Therefore, I am suggesting a localized change: one that affects sites frequently visited by children, such as Google! Many search engines feature a “safe search” settings option that can be checked. One way to limit accidental viewings of nudity would be to have sites frequently visited by children have the setting already checked, so nudity would only appear if manually unchecked. Or maybe there doesn’t need to be changes made to alternative sites, but a child-friendly search engine made specifically for schools and parents to use as a homepage. We need a new Google: a search engine that is already set up for a wider, especially younger, audience. The internet does not need a wide-scale change per say, but small changes or additions can easily be made for the benefit of our children.
Another might argue that even if a localized change is made, children will find a way around the restrictions. Children are curious beings! Like stated before, they are naïve, so isn’t their immaturity going to encourage them to find out what’s being hidden? If one child finds a way to see nudity, others will try as well. It’ll be like a chain reaction. If it is hidden, children will be more compelled to search. So what is the point of making something that will just be ignored?
The point is to allow a safe place on the internet for children to use if they so choose. The settings are for protection, not limitation. We need to recognize that children will still search for nudity, but these sites will make them have to go one extra step to get there so it cannot be found accidentally. There is no need to hide mature content, but rather put it behind a curtain so others can choose to pass. All in all, I find this argument to be insignificant. Some people will benefit from it, and others will choose not to. The point is that the option is given. There is no reason to argue against a concept simply because people will choose to not utilize its capabilities. Not one proposal is conclusive for all individuals, but this is one that will do not harm to anyone while simultaneously improving others’ experiences.
What about all of this censorship? Isn’t the internet supposed to have some element of freedom? Plus, parents could argue that they should always be the deciding factor in their kids’ wellbeing. It isn’t up for a large debate how individual parents should monitor their children’s’ internet usage. Parents should be deciding how much to expose their children to.
The difference between a safety net and censorship is that a safety net is simply a screen that can be moved, whereas censorship is something uncontrollable. I think parents should argue that some limitations are necessary, because exposing a child to too much at one time can be detrimental. A child’s safety and well-being easily outweighs an argument of censorship. Censorship is only recognizable when one becomes of an age of being able to process that information. The same argument can be applied to freedom. Freedom is very important, but it becomes controversial when it begins to hurt others. As stated before, my proposal would not hurt anyone (it won’t and couldn’t be applied to the whole internet), and it helps others. That is not a violation of anyone’s freedom. Parents and other adult figures will still be able to make decisions about how much access a child has to the internet and which sites, et cetera. A safety net will allow authority figures to worry less over kids seeing things that might be too mature for them. It allows a thin layer of protection that is still easily penetrable if so desired. This option gives more control; it doesn’t limit it.
A final and very strong argument against having restrictions on the nudity content accessible to children is that nudity is natural. It is something that is so pure that children need to be exposed to it and need to learn that their bodies are natural and beautiful. One could argue that a lack of exposure to nudity could lead to problems later in child development. For example, if a child is never exposed to the opposite genitalia, everything will be a hundred times scarier when they become a teenager or adult and are exposed to it in real life. There is also a large cultural element. Italians, for example, are often exposed to nudity early on from various art pieces that feature nude portraits. Nudity is something that should be celebrated and accepted.
To this argument, I have to agree. Nudity is completely natural and children should be exposed to it in varying levels. The key in that statement is “varying levels”. I don’t think anyone would agree that dropping all of the mature content in life on a child at one time is beneficial for the child. If anything comes by that, it will be fear. With my proposition, there will still be many ways to search for nudity, but children (and adults too) will be less likely to find it accidentally. One of the key elements the initiated this proposition was the difference between educational research and recreational. If a child, or anyone for that matter, is searching for educational purposes (other than sex education), nudity and other explicit content is only a burden at the least. At the most, it could influence a child to stop searching, therefore hindering their learning, and it could hinder their well-being. A protective screen would eliminate that possibility. If an individual is looking for nudity, then they can uncheck the safe setting or go to another website. Overall, I agree that nudity is natural, but we want children, and everyone, to have a positive experience with seeing it.
There are two children- a girl searching for images of a Greek god for school and a boy searching for mature content. With the schools utilizing a “kid’s web”, the girl logs onto the school computer and goes onto the homepage. It functions exactly like Google, but she knows that she will find exactly what she’s looking for. She types in “Zeus” and images that are school-appropriate appear and she is able to complete her project in an optimal time period. The boy is on a computer at home. He goes on the internet and his parents have set the homepage to the same as the school’s. He goes to another website. He chooses not to use the safe settings in order to see what he is looking for. Both children have the capability to utilize a safety net. One child chooses to and another doesn’t, but they both have a choice which is what is most important.
Image: West Pediment of the Parthenon