Does Internet use bring more good than harm?

Technology: Students using Internet at Sayyidina Othman Secondary School. Some parents believe that the use of Internet can help their children's development. Picture: BT/Hj Ali

Thursday, July 30, 2009

THERE were mixed reviews on youths' Internet use, with some saying that they felt powerless to monitor and control what their children are doing, while others said that introducing youths to the Internet can help their development.

A government worker in his mid 40s said that his wife is always complaining to him about their children's excessive use of the Internet.

Declining to be named, the father of two said that his children, boys aged 16 and 14, spends majority of their time after school surfing the web, looking at videos and downloading songs and chatting with friends.

"They have their own rooms so we don't really know what they are doing. They usually say that they are chatting with friends but we do not know who these friends are. Can these friends be trusted?" he asked.

He also spoke of his concern on his children using Youtube for streaming videos. "You can find anything on Youtube, from pranks to pornographic material and even criminal activities," he said, adding that anyone can register a fake profile to bypass any age authentication restrictions.

"I know that there are ways to block or control access to such sites, but I don't know how to do it. I barely know how to operate and surf the net, let alone set up restrictions," he said.

Meanwhile, Ting Siew Hui, mother of a 16-year-old, said that she is worried because pornography is easily available on the Internet.

She said that she often feels helpless that she lacks the knowledge and expertise to prevent or block such websites.

"He also spends too much time playing violent games and I am afraid that he will get used to the violence and will no longer be able to relate to what is happening in the real world," she added.

Ting also spoke of how news reports of rape and fraud cases have heightened her concerns for the safety of her son.

"Fortunately, I have a son and not a daughter, or I would be even more worried," she said.

Her son, currently in Form Five, spends as long as six hours a day online, usually three hours in the evening and another three at night.

"It is part of the new generation's way of relaxing... It also keeps them from going out so it is good because who knows what they are getting into outside," she said.

Meanwhile, a 22-year-old Universiti Brunei Darussalam student who requested to be known as Ibrahim disagreed, saying that he does not see such concerns as negative influences but as an educational process for the youths.

"People might be worried about pornography and such, but they have to realise that these children will still be exposed to pornographic material through other devices," he said, adding that the more children were exposed to such materials, the less curious they would be.

"If you limit Internet access at home, they will still be able to access it elsewhere, in cafes, through mobile Internet or at their friends' house," he said, adding that there is no longer any way to hide or control such materials given the rapid development of technology.

Ibrahim said that his nine-year-old nephew had benefited significantly from online gaming, which was introduced to him two years ago.

"His English is really good now, compared to his Malay, and I think this is because every one speaks to him in English when he is playing online," he said.

"It is important to introduce these children to the possibilities of the Internet at a young age so they can get accustomed to it," said Ibrahim. (MJH1)The Brunei Times