Legislation must be stringent to keep youngsters safe online

2019-11-05 China Daily Editor:Mo Hong'e

(Song Chen/China Daily)

The Legislation Process should be accelerated to better protect children from unhealthy information online. Gmw.cn comments:

According to a national juvenile internet usage report released last year, 30.3 percent of the juvenile internet users have encountered illegal or unhealthy information during their internet surfing. New Era Underage Female and Family Internet Literacy provides more shocking data: about 29.3 percent of girls have been harassed online.

The internet provides more convenient access to information, but youngsters are more likely to be exposed to unhealthy information, as the social "living room culture" has changed to an isolated "bedroom culture". During the "living room" era, television was the main medium of information, which means that parents could more easily supervise what information their children could access. But in the era of the internet, it is difficult for the parents to establish an information firewall when children browse the internet using their smartphones on their own in their bedrooms. Youngsters today are therefore more vulnerable to unhealthy information, internet addiction, internet bullying, sexual predators and disclosure of their personal information.

To protect young internet users, the internet platforms must be gatekeepers and guardians. Many internet companies nowadays have mature algorithms to precisely recognize their targeted customers, which means it should be possible for them to recognize juvenile internet users and establish grading system to protect them. But many of them lack the urge to do so, because youths are a huge and profitable market.

However commercial interests must be placed below the legitimate rights and interests of minors.

At present China lacks necessary legislation to protect children online, which makes the internet a gray zone of juvenile protection.

The Juvenile Internet Protection Regulation will be introduced later this year, and there will also be specific articles on juveniles' internet protection in the newly revised Law on Protection of Minors. It is to be hoped that this law and the new regulation will prompt the internet companies to better protect minors online.

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