Previously under the guise of different pixels, the kind of behaviour that Channel 4 News has highlighted on Habbo Hotel is nothing unusual. As someone who began using the Internet way back in 1996, you can trust me that this info isn’t new. But what annoys me is that Channel 4 News has pretty much absolved parents of any parental responsibility in keeping their children safe online.
Apart from ignoring the fact that children under the age of 13 who are using Habbo are actually breaking the terms and conditions for the service by even using it, (the adult they had investigating the site, pretended to be an 11 year old girl), they ignored a lot of other things. They ignored how cyber sex between teenagers is not unusual and actually decided to label all sexual solicitations on the service to be the result of activity by pedophiles.
Habbo users have been pretty pissed by the coverage and I think rightly so. The service was already moderated and had a CEOP button. And guess what? Stuff similar to this was going on back when I use to use ICQ and IRC in 1998. That was 14 years ago. Our society has had 14 years to educate people about this crap. I’m pretty sure that’s long enough to get the message to parents and kids alike.
But no, Channel 4 News has treated the whole thing as something new. Under the previous government, there was the Byron Review (made public back in 2008), which had already made recommendations on how to educate the public (all ages) about the risks to kids and teens online. This isn’t a recent issue.
If people have failed to implement the findings of the Byron Review or listened to the experiences of pioneer net users from the last 10+ years – Habbo are not to blame.
I am fed up with technological ignorance on the part of huge swathes of the public being used as an excuse for people not to be aware of the risks of going online. People need to realise that just like walking down an actual street, you can be mugged, abused and disgusted before you even reach the corner shop when you’re using the Internet.
Moderation, like policing, can only do so much. It is up to the public to take charge of their own actions, whether they’re 9 or 99 years old.