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2014年8月15日 (金)

(社説)子供とネット 仲間の輪をもっと広く

August 14, 2014
EDITORIAL: Online relationships a very one-sided thing
(社説)子供とネット 仲間の輪をもっと広く

There must be many parents in Japan who lament the time their children spend on smartphones while they could be doing other things during the summer break.

The education board of Kasuga city in Fukuoka Prefecture this summer called for a ban on children using their smartphones at night. The board is concerned that Internet addiction could disrupt the children's daily routine.

Adults tend to think that children who get hooked on Internet surfing have trouble developing normal relationships with others. But that is not necessarily the case.

Most children use the Internet to communicate with friends and acquaintances, such as classmates and other members of their school clubs, after the school day is over.

The Internet offers children the opportunity to stay in touch with their pals all the time, no matter where they are. Many children are unable to stop their online communications with friends because they fear doing so will damage their friendships. The problem, then, is that these children are stuck in a "Catch-22" situation.

There have also been cases in which exchanges on Line and other messaging applications led to serious incidents like suicides caused by bullying, or even murder.

For many children, the greatest risk posed by their online communications is not the possibility of encountering strangers with nefarious intent, but rather pressure from their usual friends to conform.

Most Japanese high school students and about half of all junior high school students have their cellphones or smartphones, according to a survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Since each device is the private property of the individual, it is difficult to enforce a ban or restrict the possession of smartphones in trying to deal with the problem.

The Internet is like the automobile. Most adults drive. While driving entails the risk of an accident, and cars are often used in carrying out crimes, the automobile is basically a tool that enriches people’s life. The Web has made it easier for junior and high school students to interact with people of different schools, ages and areas.

This being the case, perhaps parents should make greater efforts to help their children learn how to avoid potential dangers while using the Internet. We suggest that each family should establish certain rules, such as making children use their smartphone in the living room while everybody else is present.

Some experts advise parents to use the same messaging applications and social networking sites as those used by their children. Doing so will help parents understand the risks involved and allow them to set an example to their children on where the line should be drawn in revealing private information or expressing personal thoughts and feelings.

Children feel they are under enormous pressure to gain acceptance from those they view as their peers. Despite this desperation to be accepted, peer pressure often comes into play and some children end up being ignored and excluded by the group.

Sadly, this kind of narrow-mindedness is not uncommon in our society. Adults also display this same tendency.

Children need to develop relations with others outside their schools and clubs to avoid being confined to their usual circle of friends and trying to live up to the expectations of others.

We urge children to value their private lives and focus more on their own interests.

Children need to understand that it is a healthy part of a relationship to disagree with others. It doesn't mean disrespect.

It all comes down to whether families and schools can help children develop this understanding.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 14


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