Recently while giving an Online Safety Presentation I was asked, why doesn’t the government stop porn and other offensive content online?
As a child online safety advocate, I would love it if all offensive content were taken down so that our kids weren’t exposed. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why this is an impossible task.
Growth of the Internet – The rapid growth of the Internet with 140,000 new websites daily, makes it impossible to keep up with offensive content. Individuals are urged to report offensive content such as hate sites, racist sites, illegal sites, and cyberbullying to authorities, content providers and social networking sites.
The Online World is Global – Content can come from anyone, any where and any country.
Freedom of Speech – In the U.S. freedom of speech and first amendment rights win most of the time. Stay tuned, the U.S. Supreme court will hear a case today about this very subject concerning freedom of speech on social media.
The reality facing parents and kids is that most of the content shared online and uploaded online isn’t checked. Sites like You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and others ask users to report inappropriate, illegal or harmful content using their reporting platforms. In the Facebook terms of service, they specify that user’s will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” To report content on Facebook, user’s and those that don’t have a Facebook account can learn more on their “how to report” page.
Twitter reminds users, “what you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly. You are what you Tweet!” That said, Twitter encourages and prides itself on the free flow of unleashed content as long as it’s not illegal. Recently they changed their policy of unconstrained postings and now are not allowing gruesome videos, specifically ISIS be-headings to be posted. They are removing this content and suspending user’s who post these images.
Facebook on the other hand, allows user’s to post very graphic violent video’s such as beheading and to the surprise of some users. Many kids under the age of 13 use Facebook. Would you want your child seeing such violent behavior?
Facebook often cites their Community Standards policy, saying, “Facebook gives people around the world the power to publish their own stories, see the world through the eyes of many other people, and connect and share wherever they go. The conversation that happens on Facebook – and the opinions expressed here – mirror the diversity of the people using Facebook.
To balance the needs and interests of a global population, Facebook protects expression that meets the community standards outlined on this page.” They go on to say that graphic violence is not tolerated. I think Facebook is seriously confused! At the least they are sending user’s mixed messages about what they deem content inappropriate.
You Tube, owned by Google, has very clear guidelines for it’s community of users and the kind of content that is allowed. User’s may click the button that says “Flag” under the video they’re watching to submit it for review by YouTube staff if they think it doesn’t meet these guidelines. YouTube staff review flagged videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Kudos to You Tube for making a concerted effort to review online content and their efforts to keep kids safe online. Unfortunately, there is still plenty of graphic violent content on You Tube. “There are videos of kids being bullied, of neighborhood fights. There’s footage of people being killed by the police, such as New York’s Eric Garner who was killed in July by a police officer using the choke hold to subdue him. Viewers can clearly see an alive Garner gasp for breath and, then, slip away.”
The reality is that it’s likely that your child will be exposed to offensive content online. The average age for a child seeing porn today is 11 years old. Violent content online abounds, whether viewing a violent video, or playing a violent game like Call of Duty. Twitter, Twitter’s app Vine and many others make it all to easy for kids to see porn. Simply put in the hashtags #porn, #xxx, #sex and voila, it’s all there with a click. The only thing that Twitter doesn’t allow regarding pornography is that user’s may not use obscene or pornographic images in either their profile photo, header photo, or user background. So good of them to make such a distinction – LOL! As I said the content is a click away.
To see other rules for Twitter user’s click here. Twitter does encourage users to mark sensitive content. They say, “If you upload media that might be considered sensitive content such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures, you should consider applying the account setting “Mark my media as containing sensitive content”. Reporting on Twitter pertains to harassment, impersonation, self harm and posting private information. If your child is being cyberbullied for example on Twitter, they would fill out this form: https://support.twitter.com/forms/abusiveuser There are forms for each of these issues.
- Teach your kids that if they see something that is inappropriate of offensive close the screen on their device and tell a trusted adult.
- As a parent if you think the content might be illegal, like cyberbullying, racist hate sites or pictures of children being abused you can report it to authorities.
- The best way for parents to protect children from harmful online content is to be aware of the sites they’re visiting, the terms of service, the content restrictions and age appropriateness of the website or app they’re using.
At the end of the day, parents are the first line of defense regarding the kind of content kids are exposed to. Parents are the best filter because they can immediately see if content is appropriate or not. We want to teach our kids to be good filters too and use that wonderful yet undeveloped organ between their ears, their brain. Until they are mature, they need our guidance to help them understand what is OK and what’s not.