Finding myself with a free moment, I decided to crank out another GMAT practice essay. The topic asked me to agree or disagree with a statement that argued against international regulations limiting children’s access to adult material on the Internet. Personally, I do think something should be done to address this issue; however, as often happens when I have to brainstorm with limited time, I ended up arguing against myself. It turned out to be an interesting exercise, although I should point out that the opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those held by the author!
Many have advocated for the implementation of international regulations designed to limit children’s access to adult material on the internet. At first blush (no pun intended), this seems reasonable. Conventional wisdom holds that pornographic/adult material is a corruptive influence on children, and that children all over the world would benefit from protection from such protection. There are also human rights implications to consider: to wit, child pornography, sex slavery, and other forms of exploitation. One could postulate that by making adult materials more difficult to access, these other blemishes would be reduced.
Although this reasoning has its appeal, deeper issues must be considered. Firstly, not all countries define “adult material” the same way. Consider the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia. The former is famous for legalized marijuana and prostitution; Amersterdam’s “Red Light District” is well known. Such a society would probably be much more accepting of risqué material than Saudi Arabia, a highly restrictive Islamic nation. How would these two countries, with completely different moral borometers, reach a consensus on which content to label as “adult”?
Also important to consider is the vast scale of the Internet, and its rapid continual growth. A very robust (and expensive) mechanism would be required regulate something so huge. Does this issue warrant such a large allocation of resources, when simple parental oversight could accomplish the job might more cheaply.
One should also consider how receptive internet pornographers would be to such regulation. Many of them reside in developing nations whose governments pay little heed to international compacts regarding human rights and copyright protection. Do we expect them to submit to our regulations?
Other points could be made referencing freedom of expression, and questioning exactly how corrosive adult material is on our young people (most of whom do come into contact with this material at some point during childhood, with no apparent adverse consequences). In the final analysis, it seems foolhardy to think that we can regulate something as expansive and complicated as the internet. And given the international nature of the issue, how do we structure our regulations without alienating anyone? It seems like simple, cheap parental oversight is the most judicious, effective and economical solution. If you object to this kind of material, make sure your kids don’t access it! Of course, this is easier said than done; getting parents to exercise this kind of authority is a topic best reserved for its own essay.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!