I do not have the ability to comment on your experience with internet censorship as a child (assuming that you had access to the internet as well as the internet having been invented), but for me, it was fairly stern. Assuming that the foundation for the modern internet began in 1983 with ARPANET and TCP/IP, by the time that I was born in 1995, the internet had developed a great deal. As such, once I reached middle school, internet censorship had become a reality.
In order to provide a degree of background information, it is important to note that in 2000, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was enacted by the U.S. Congress. “CIPA imposes certain requirements on schools or libraries that receive discounts fro internet access or internal connections through the E-rate program…” With regard to what it blocks, “The protection measures must block or filter internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; (c) harmful to minors.” You can view the additional censored material in the image below.
Is There a Bright Side?
While some could argue that internet censorship has its merits, there are plenty of rebuttals for the contrary. With that being said, I believe that these are the two greatest accomplishments of internet censorship in schools.
- Focus: With internet censorship in place, students, especially those of adolescent years, are much less likely to “goof-around” on the internet, and more likely to focus.
- Safety: While efforts are constantly made to protect children from the physical world around them, what of the immaterial, digital world in front of them? There are predators, bullies, and malicious hackers online that have no intent other than to take advantage of these children.
The Dark Side
- Overstepping: One of the greatest refutes of internet censorship in schools, in my opinion, is the overstepping of boundaries. While I believe that protecting children and their innocence from some of the gruesome things awaiting them on the internet is a positive, I also believe that this “protection” can be manipulated. It seems as though I am not the only one feeling this way though, as Swedish MEP, Christian Engstöm, said that he does, “…see one big problem [with internet censorship), which is that well-meaning politicians use children as an excuse to carry out censorship.”
- A Need to Develop: I understand that there are harmful things in the world that were not present 50 years ago, and as such, there needs to be a level of protection from those threats. At the same time, children should not be so sheltered that they have no idea what lies beyond the “walls of the city.” Children need to develop and need to understand what is “out there” and simply blocking their access to the internet will only make them more curious, and less informed. Now, before you criticize me for mentioning the possibility of “blocking the internet altogether” (as that is farfetched), let me say that for me, it felt that way in high school. More specifically, I vividly remember conducting research for projects, and being told to use the databases that the school granted access to (as wikipedia was frowned upon). The inherent problem though, was that many of these links, which the school told us to use, were also blocked. It felt as though I had been told to build a bird house with a saw and a hammer, but both were held under lock and key: it did not make sense.
From what I could gauge (via my research), the Czech Republic has not taken such drastic measures, and more broadly, neither has Europe as a whole. What does seem to be consistent though, is the feeling that too much censorship of material, especially the restriction of adolescent access, will not have positive outcomes. More specifically, “Senior Adviser for Innovation” EPSC of the European Commission, Robert Madelin, stated that he was, “…absolutely convinced that legislation will do a lot of harm and no good.”
As a last personal aside, I have always found that children that are too sheltered are typically the ones who, when finally granted access (to whatever they were sheltered from), abuse it.