Growing up I had more rules and regulations regarding media than I do today. As a first child in a relatively strict family, I wasn’t even allowed to watch Home and Away until I turned 12. I was only allowed on MSN for a few hours a day (and the PC was in the kitchen where anyone could see my screen), and my mum was allowed to come in at any time and look at my conversations. As it was before the days of Facebook, I wasn’t allowed Myspace until ALL of my friends had it, and I wasn’t even allowed to read Girlfriend or Dolly magazine until I was like, 15.
Today, there’s no limit to what I can do. With my own laptop, phone, and ipod, my Mum really can’t control my media habits. She still assures me that she ‘checks my Facebook messages’ with a secret app, but come on Mum I know you don’t even know how to open a new tab.
My youngest sister who is 13 never had to deal with any of these problems. When I turned 12 and was allowed to watch Home and Away, my sister was allowed to watch it too even though she was 6. She now has her own laptop, iPad, iPhone and iPod, and I can only assume she does anything she pleases. Mum would have no idea what to even control or put restrictions on. Kik? Tumblr? Facebook? Snapchat? Instagram? She thinks Instagram is a messenger service and Kik is something you do with a soccer ball. Even if Mum did understand what we did on the internet, she would have no understanding of enforcing these restrictions or even know how to check the history or block any websites.
Today in the 21st century there are definitely less rules and regulations (in my family anyway) concerning media. If anything, I’m the one who limits my sister to what she does on the internet. Multiple times she’s asked me how to download TV shows and movies, but I don’t want her looking at all the disgustingly graphic advertisements on the side of The Pirate Bay.
It actually worries me that we had more rules and regulations surrounding the internet and media years ago than we do now. 5-year-olds from my Mum’s kindergarten class have gotten in trouble multiple times for looking up images on the school iPads such as ‘sexy’ and ‘poo bum’, and making collages of their Google image results.
The internet has provided us with the accessibility to to share, view and interact with ANY media content, wherever, whenever. The moral panic around illegal downloading increases daily, but I think we need to re-evaluate many other areas of technology first. What do you find more morally disconcerting? A 5-year-old child looking up images of the word ‘sexy,’ or teenagers and adults downloading a movie that isn’t aired on free-to-air television in Australia? I’m not saying that piracy isn’t bad, but what really needs to be focussed on is why Australians are in the position that they have to illegally watch their television shows.
Helen Roberts from the Parliament of Australia undertook research on if the Internet can be regulated. She stated,
“There is concern that children could gain access to material via the Internet, which would otherwise be unavailable to them because of their age. The impression has been created that hard core pornographic material is easy for children to find on the Internet. Material that is unsuitable for minors is more readily available.”
This issue needs to be added to our dialogue, and regulated before a whole generation of children witness things that they can’t un-see. The Internet has definitely blurred the lines between acceptable and non-acceptable viewing for children.
Along with media rules and regulations, the concepts of public and private space are also blurring.
When I went out for lunch with my group of girlfriends, our meals came out and every one of us pulled out our phones when our meals arrived to Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook a photo of our meal. It is becoming more and more accepted, almost expected, to have a mobile phone and to use it publicly. Because of this, we don’t just have our physical public space, but this other virtual public space online.
In the 21st century with all the technology that we have, we are more social than ever. But just because we are social, does this mean that we are present? Because of all this technology we’re socialising half-heartedly, and don’t know how to sit down for a meal with friends without having our phone in our hand.
I think it’s important for us all to consciously not use our mobile phones during social events, and stop living our lives through our phone screens.