Internet and young people: how ethical can it be?

Goncalo Jorge Morais of Costa


The purpose of the paper to present, is the attempt to explain how much the Internet can be ethical or not, in relation to the young people. However, I think that the explanation on what consider youth, it is really important for the discussion of the problem. I consider young, all the social intervenients, whose age group is the 12-15 years, in other words, individuals that don’t present ideal maturation levels to conveniently notice the implications of the Internet in his/her future development, namely in ethical and moral terms.

I should still refer that, the analysis in cause should be approached in an interdisciplinary optic, like the social sciences advocate, that is, we will analyze a complex reality, for that, the resource to several social sciences will be fundamental for the analytical success of the issue.

On the other hand, this article appears as a inevitable and even natural consequence of the previous two presented respectively in 2002 and in 2005, given that, in both situations the answers were endorsed in a positive way, but the number of questions that appeared as consequence was of such order, that this article as I already affirmed appears naturally.

What began by being in the middle of the Cold War a network for military ends and later to the academy, the known ARPANET, now Internet grew and it continues to grow in a exponential form, counting in our days with billions of users at a global level, for the that, we can affirm that, the Internet is to cause a substantive effect as the people in our society behave and they interact. For the first time, in the history of the human society, the children feel more comfortable to use a technology than their own parents, and there are important considerations to weave relatively to this subject. The networks of telecommunications and the computational technology are driving to the change that transforms our lives, but however they lack in the resources to understand as it is correlated with the ethical changes in our society. The internet puts us in contact with the whole world, then that, a strong possibility exists of promoting strategies that allow causing damages unhappily, badly understood and even intentional skirmishes in what refer to the cultural differences.

The countless hours that the youths spend on-line it can lead to depressions and other diseases of mental forum due to the lack of significant interactions and intimate relationships with friends and family. The youths’ age group that spend infinite hours on-line and limit their social interactions equally with their fellow creatures can become socially isolated, for that, the inherent opportunity to improve their social capacities disappears. Beside those quoted problems, we must have in consideration the problem regarding the cognitive dissonance due to the sociological shock. However, there is a fundamental question to put: will all the young people be affected in the same way or due the fact to belong to a certain society or geographical location won’t cart different consequences? The issue to keep is clear, the on-line interaction is not the same that the traditional interaction.

In our everyday activities in social terms, that is, with other people, there are traditions or social models that govern our interactions with each individual. We probably presented different behaviours according to the social paper that we are to carry out, in other words, our behaviour is clearly different face to our boss, to a work colleague, a teacher or a friend. When we typically deal to a person that we didn’t know, our social behaviour is a little more distant, however maintaining the courtesy. However in the internet, what is noticed is that individuals transfigured entirely, besides they present non ethical behaviours in terms of the relationship or social behaviour, especially in situations of mediated communication, as for instance in chats or irc´s. Examples of non ethical behaviour at chat’s or irc´s are: exclusion of people from different social levels regarding a certain group; obscene language; the own person’s non identification; among others.

In many aspects the behaviour in the cyberspace reflects the off-line everyday behaviour, and, obviously the youths incorporate in this group of people especially because the development process in terms of maturity is not complete.

It is tends in consideration all of the enunciated problems, that the governments of the developed countries have been taking measures with the purpose to minimize the ethical problems of the Internet. Those measures however generate other essential questions. When an internet service tries to control what happens, the controversy appears, because it is seen as a censorship to thought and an attack to the rights of freedom of expression and respect for privacy. When the filters of the Internet try to control the information which people have access, a question appears. Are these filters a valuable tool to eliminate all of the ethical problems of the Internet? Each one of these filters is subjective and some of them eliminate information whose content could be considered as useful information. Besides, other subject appears in the horizon: will the Internet provider act in good faith or will they be to begin to assume responsibilities usually related to parents? Finally there are questions on how effective are those filters.

However we should go beyond those measures, I defend that it is necessary in a clear way to create a critical mass in terms of a collective conscience, that would allow changes in social models regarding the on-line behaviour, but as any change of mentalities in a society the temporary subject has a significant weight.


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