Mature behaviour arises from reason, not moralistic pledges

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 March, 2008, 12:00am

Rosanna Wong's article concerning online protection for young web users ('Safety net', March 5), is filled with good intentions but it remains doubtful if such ideas can be usefully put into practice, particularly in today's context.

She described a recent charter launched, the purpose of which was 'to ask young people to take responsibility for their own behaviour when they are alone, but certainly when they are online'. To do this, young people would need to have attained a high degree of maturity and independence but if they have reached that level of maturity, they do not need such a charter. Therefore, it seems more relevant if the purpose were 'to teach, educate, influence and induce' young people to take responsibility for their own behaviour, rather than simply asking them to do so.

Dr Wong, executive director of The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, says the charter asks young people 'to make a commitment to legal, healthy and safe behaviour while on the web' and 'that they say 'no' to pornography, respect others, delete indecent or obscene material, be self-controlled in what one accesses and adopt self-protective measures by not putting themselves at risk online'. It is obvious that self-control and all the other things asked for in the charter are exactly what generally young people are weak at. Instead of asking them to simply make a commitment, Dr Wong would serve them better by organising talks, gatherings or forums, so that those aspects on legal, healthy and safe behaviour when using the web can be discussed and explored.

When young people have better guidance, they can make better decisions for themselves. Instead of asking them to conform to some pre-set moral code without their full grasp of what is perceived as 'acceptable' and relevant to their stage in life, appropriate guidance through discussions and exploratory means can help clarify their perceptions without the risk of unwittingly forcing them to conform to our 'mature and adult' views.

The real world is not black or white. There are various shades of grey that we can be comfortable with and our young people are entitled to know that.

Alex Hung, Mong Kok