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Hate Speech, Non-Wholesome Ideas and Illegal Downloads

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Hate Speech and other Non-Wholesome Ideas

Also present in media, particularly in online settings, is persuasive speech designed to get people to interpret events in the world in a particular way. Examples of such speech include biased news coverage on television or in newspapers; outright propaganda; outreach and recruitment programs of various churches, organizations, and cults; and hate speech.

The barrier for creating pages on the Internet is very low. Anyone with a little computer knowledge can create a Web page with whatever content and ideas they want to express, including ideas that are hateful and prejudicial. So long as the ideas expressed on a website do not directly incite violence or other criminal acts, there is little regulation of such websites that is likely to occur. Consequently, the media, and particularly the Internet, are filled with pages where many different people, organizations, and movements are vying for youth's attention and allegiance.

Two examples for parents to consider are Hate Speech and Pro-Ana Eating Disorder websites.

Hate group, like those promoting neo-Nazi ideology or radical theology, use Web sites and blogs to propagate messages of hatred and violence aimed at certain cultures and groups of people. Some of these groups will even use "recruitment games" on their Websites to try to convince impressionable people (like children) to take up their beliefs and mission to spread violence to certain groups.

The term 'pro-ana' is shorthand for 'pro-anorexia'. Pro-ana websites promote the idea that dangerous eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are desirable behaviors. Such sites are often created by girls who have eating disorders and who view their condition as a means of self-perfection. Impressionable young girls, and some boys as well, encountering such websites may be taken in by the pro-ana authors' passionate idealism and may be encouraged to start themselves binging and purging or engaging in food restrictions that can lead to an eating disorder. This is a tragic mistake, for eating disorders are very serious conditions that can become lethal in some cases. Violence, sexual content, excessive advertising or marketing, drugs and alcohol, negative body image standards, and other messages parents will likely disapprove of are rampant in video games, blogs, websites, television programs, music, and movies aimed at an older audience. Children who encounter such content without a parent around to help them understand it in perspective may be unduly influenced and negatively affected by that content.

Illegal Downloads

Simply put, large archives of illegally distributed movies, television shows, music, software programs and even printed books are easily and trivially available for children to download. Using special peer-to-peer software such as BitTorrent (and variations like uTorrent and others, youth often illegally swap copyrighted movies music and software without giving much thought to what they are doing. Many such files are simply posted to regular websites and then easily downloaded without the need for special software tools. The sharing of copyrighted material is considered piracy because individuals are giving and taking others property that aren't theirs without paying. By law, such sharing is theft, but because so many children engage in this widespread behavior, individual children may never realize that they are breaking the law. Even if children recognize that they are breaking the law, the benefit of such behavior - access to unlimited free music, moves, and software - is so tempting that they may not stop until a parent or other authority figure makes it clear that this is unacceptable behavior.

It is important to distinguish between the tools used to download files and the behaviors downloading children choose to engage in. BitTorrent is an amazing piece of technology which enables files to be downloaded with great efficiency compared to conventional methods. There are many legitimate uses for this technology, including facilitating the downloading of legal files of all varieties. It is also the case that BitTorrent is only one of multiple methods children may use to obtain pirated files. For these reasons, it is not useful to simply ban children's use of BitTorrent clients and similar technologies. Rather, children need to understand why their particular use of BitTorrent for piracy purposes is wrong.

Some of the material available for legal and illegal download on the Internet is adult in nature and is thus inappropriate for children to consume for reasons other than piracy. We discuss the issue of adult content below in a separate section.



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