A lot of children who use the Internet are being exposed to harmful materials and there has to be proper monitoring to ensure safety of children as well as the state. That's the concern that was expressed at a recent roundtable attended by eminent members of the civil society, educationalists and development activists.
Bangladesh has one of the fastest growing Internet users in the world. According to a study, by 2017, about 100 million children would have internet access, 90 percent of whom would use it via smartphones. That means they would have an infinite source of information and knowledge at their fingertips. The problem is, the Internet world is a lot like the real one imbued with potential for immense good as well as bad. We must protect our children from the bad while getting the best out of one of the biggest endowments to mankind.
And there are solutions to prevent the 'worst' getting to the children: legal, technological, and societal. From the legal and technical angle, the government could ban websites containing materials not suitable for children or order service providers to shut down such sites. But people will find smarter ways of circumventing that. The best way, we feel, is the awareness solutions where the role of the parents as well as teachers assumes salience. The 2013 Child Act and the current education policy, reportedly, do not address Internet safety, which it should. Social campaigns should be launched to raise awareness about the judicious, knowledge-based use of the Internet.
All said, the real solution, perhaps, lies in parents and teachers engaging with children and spending more quality time with them. Digital connectivity, no matter how valuable, can never substitute live interaction.