When I Was a Lad, We Had Proper Moral Panics...

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The Bailey review into placating parental anxiety (at least, that seems to be how its creators would like us to understand it) has now been published, and as expected its recommendations include one to the effect that ‘the Internet industry should ensure that customers must make an active choice over what sort of content they want to allow their children to access’. In the B.B.C.’s translation, this means that ‘online parental controls are not always easy to set up’, and so somebody’s attempt at Web filtering will be thrust upon you unless you opt out. Opting in is judged to be among ‘the barriers that sometimes make parenting difficult’.

If we’re to buy into the idea that this reflects a genuine groundswell of severe popular concern, rather than a piece of manufactured political theatre, we’re going to have to believe the following propositions simultaneously:

  1. Parents believe that their children are in danger from unfiltered Internet connections.
  2. Parents, though animated enough to voice alarm when asked, lack motivation to find out for themselves how to defend against the danger by setting up the filters.

My guess is that here we see the gulf between claiming anxiety when asked ‘Sir/Madam, are you concerned about x?’ and actually showing concern in more meaningful ways; although it might just be that a great many individuals are engaging in some hand-wringing for the imagined fate of other people’s children.

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