Don’t put filters, rather educate teens to view online content responsibly

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 14 : In the age of digitization, do you also think that open internet is unsafe for your child? Have you too applied filters to prevent them from accessing any unwanted content? If yes, then don't do so, as a study suggests that such filters will not safeguard your teenager from viewing such things, instead educate and support them to view online material responsibly.

The findings, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, indicated that nearly one in six of the teenagers reported they had at least one negative experience online.

According to researchers, the use of internet filtering in the home did not appear to mitigate the risk of young people having unpleasant online experiences and that technical ability to bypass these filters had no observed effect on the likelihood of such experiences.

"Parents may feel reassured in knowing they have internet filters in their home, but our results suggests that such filters do not safeguard against young people seeing things that may frighten or upset them," said lead author Dr Andrew Przybylski from the Oxford Internet Institute.

"We strongly believe that there is a need for more evidence to provide guidance on keeping young people safe online so policymakers, parents and those concerned with educating young people can support them in an appropriate way," Przybylski added.

Internet filters are widely used in homes, schools and libraries to protect young people from unpleasant online experiences.

They examined 515 teenagers aged 12-15 years with equal number of boys and girls in the sample. Meanwhile only one-third of the parents said they used content filters, with two-thirds (66 percent) saying they had not.

The researchers stated that their main concern is that such filters may 'over-block' searches for information about issues that are important for teenagers, such as alcohol, drugs, sexual relationships, health and identity, and may even have 'disproportionate' effect on vulnerable groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens.

They also note that the use of filters could lead to 'chilling effects' whereby young people pre-empt filtered results by self-censoring what they view.

"We need more focus on educating and supporting teenagers to view online material responsibly, especially given increasing use of mobile devices outside the home," the team concluded.

Source: ANI