[MINORITY VOICE]The Internet Should Not Be Condemned
The Internet may have triggered an information revolution, but alarms are ringing about its effect on Korean teenagers.
According to one statistic, 80 percent of managers of obscene Internet sites are teenagers. An Internet site run by a boy, 15, provides recipes for bombs, teenage girls are meeting older men in online chat rooms, forming "sugar daddy" relationships, teenagers have committed suicide after going to how-to Internet sites and elementary school students have left indecent messages on notice boards. All of these cases have brought down society's wrath on the Internet.
Because of the perception that the Internet instigates antisocial conduct by youths, there is a great deal of pressure from various sectors of Korean society to crack down on this revolutionary communication medium. But the truth is teenagers circulated obscene material, found sugar daddies and committed suicide before the advent of the Internet.
The merits of the Internet as a site of cultural activity for teenagers are being ignored due to misconceptions. Of course, not all adults attempt to judge the Internet － many acknowledge that they are not proficient with computers, nor do they try much to understand the cyber world better.
Most teenagers have the common sense to quit a chat room if there is obscene or abusive discussions. Most know to refuse a request to meet a chat partner in person. Most delete e-mails that are trying to sell them pornographic material.
Teenagers know where to find the grotesque sites that arouse curiosity, such as suicide information sites and obscene sites, but still most do not visit them. They report illegal and harmful sites to the authorities.
Therefore, the majority of teenagers are affronted by the suspicious gaze of the older generation. They feel their achievements in creating a sound Internet environment are not valued by adults. Many adults criticize the Internet for its evils without recognizing the positive, sound environment fostered by many sites.
Let's take a look at recent juvenile misbehavior related to the Internet and see what Korean teenagers learn from adults. Teenagers who are guilty of questionable behavior learned it from adults.
It is foolish to blame the Internet for the actions of a minority of teenagers, such as learning to value material wealth above all else, lacking moral judgment and being carelessly inconsiderate of others.
One happy outcome of the Internet controversy is that adults are pushing insistently for the purification of the cyber world. Adults should continue to push measures to clean up the cyber environment that our children enter.
But, and this is of critical importance, these efforts must first aim to correct adult misconceptions about the Internet.
Our targets when we campaign to clean up cyberspace should be the depraved adults who abuse the curiosity of teenagers for mercenary purposes and promote overindulgence and immoral pursuits.
The immature adults who tempt teenagers with money should be punished severely to show that immoral acts and exploitative commercialism will not be tolerated.
At the same time it is important that teenagers who contribute to a sound Internet culture be courteously received. Adults should put greater efforts into supporting teenage netizens in creating constructive ventures and projects and disseminating them through the Internet. Teenagers should learn through the Internet that truth and happiness are more valuable than materialism and that illegal acts face severe punishment.
Adults must not condemn all aspects of the Internet. They should campaign to make it safe, but most of all they should help guide our youngsters who still cannot judge clearly, allowing them to see the right way.
The writer is manager of the Report Center of Cyber Sexual Violence.
by Lee Kyung-hwa