Microsoft have announced that they are closing the MSN Chatrooms “for the children”. Apparently paedophiles have been using the chatrooms for grooming their victims.
The latter statement is roughly in the same category as “the sun rose in the East this morning” or “there is rain in Ireland in September”. Its not exactly a new issue, and the cynical amongst us might wonder at the timing of this announcement given the prevalence of the latest Windows worm.
This leads us to a wider issue – what really bugs me about this story is that they quote the head of the National Children’s Homes as saying that “free un-moderated chat cannot be made completely safe for consumers and children.” No of course it can’t – and noone ever claimed it could be. If you meet someone online, and then take that “offline” – you run a risk of discovering that the person in real life is very different. But adults are well able to handle this – and following all the normal guidelines can remain as safe as reasonably expected. But now my ability as an adult to indulge in chat is being hampered because of the risks to children.
Now forgive me if I’m missing something, but aren’t parents supposed to be the main protectors of their children? This means they should be monitoring what their children are up to – and with who – especially online. Online is a big bad world, and just as I would divert my children away from sex shops and men in dirty macs, so also would I monitor their online usage and make sure they are behaving sensibly. I get the feeling that there is an expectation with the internet that somehow ISPs should cover for parents who don’t want to do their jobs as parents.