In the early 1990’s a new communications and information vehicle hit our social, personal and workplace landscape – the Internet. By early 2001, more than half of Canadians were using the Internet in their homes, workplaces, schools and/or public libraries. This trend is expected to continue as more and more Canadians ‘get wired’ and take advantage of the Internet’s unlimited information and real-time communications.
The Internet is a powerful tool that can help a family find educational resources, help children with their homework and allow family members to learn and have fun together. However, there are risks associated with the Internet, including exposure to materials considered pornographic, violent, hate-filled, racist or generally offensive. Contact with ill-intentioned individuals who may jeopardize the safety of children and other family members is an ongoing concern for parents.
What is and is not legal on the Internet is a question that often leads to confusion and frustration on the part of parents, teachers, businesses, law enforcement agencies and users in general. The Internet is not a lawless domain, though, and what is considered illegal in Canada off-line (child pornography, hate propaganda, fraud, etc.) is also considered illegal on-line.
Enforcing Canadian laws in cyberspace, however, is challenging, and although some content on the Internet may be considered offensive to the majority of users, it may not be illegal by rule of law.
All levels of government and concerned citizen groups have actively sought solutions to the problems presented by offensive content on the Internet. Filtering technologies, education, and self-regulation of the industry have all been discussed as means of controlling content or the availability of certain types of content.
To become a safe, wise and responsible user of the Internet, life-long critical thinking skills are required. For adults, that means asking your Internet Service Provider if it is a member of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP), and using resources such as library staff, teachers, and the Internet itself to address and research safety concerns and content issues.