More needed to fight ‘virtual violence’

Cabel says that parents’ worry about their children’s safety has moved from the streets and courtyards to the computer room.

Computer Kid 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Computer Kid 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Due to the overwhelming influence of the Internet and social networks, children and teenagers spend almost no time playing outdoors anymore, and are constantly exposed to the threat of virtual violence, the Knesset Science and Technology Committee was told on Monday.
Acting committee chairman MK Eitan Cabel said on behalf of the committee that the Education Ministry must bolster information to schoolchildren about this threat and that teachers and parents should familiarize themselves with the new media to help protect youth from the dangers.
Cabel said that parents’ worry about their children’s safety has moved from the streets and courtyards to the computer room.
Many parents haven’t a clue about what is keeping their children busy online for hours on end, said Cabel, who said at the meeting – to which many young people had been invited – that he has small daughters and is on the alert.
Yonatan Klinger, a board member of the voluntary organization Eshnav, which works against virtual violence, said that “any individual can create his own content, and the boundaries between imagination and reality mix. More than half of children say they were exposed to violent content on the Internet.
“There is no one solution to online violence,” he said, “but education is a proper tool to fight it.”
Young people who spoke said that “just as we learned to look right and left before crossing the street, we have to be careful to avoid violence on the Web.”
They noted that numerous parents have joined Facebook and other social networks so they can follow their children’s “virtual lives.”
But Cabel said that while there is a trend of parents becoming their kids’ Facebook “friends,” he didn’t think this was the right attitude.
“Instead, they should present parental authority,” he said.
Yaron Ben-Zvi, who heads the computer crimes investigation unit in the Israel Police, said that only 12 officers work in this field, and their responsibility includes investigating the illegal dissemination of computer viruses and the hacking of Web sites, not only virtual violence against young people on the Internet.
A hotline for complaints about improper activities online has been set up by the Israel Internet Society, said its representative Zvia Algali, but she added that there is not enough research and data about Internet use risks.
Dr. Shiri Daniels Baltush of ERAN (Emotional First Aid) reported that of all the phonedin complaints relating to the virtual violence, 40 percent deal with loneliness and 20% with social pressures.
Nir Hinski and Orly Friedman of Microsoft Israel said that the company is trying to find solutions for parents who are not computer savvy but want to protect their children.
Einav Luk and Ronni Dayan of the Education Ministry said the ministry has targeted virtual violence as a serious problem and has initiated intervention programs around the country with help from educational advisers and counsellors.