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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

I have seen the promotions, watched videos and listened to several computer-savvy friends explain to me why the Internet should be a free and uncensored flow of entertainment and information. I used to agree.

While I have always been a strong supporter of net neutrality, or preventing Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination, I do feel that there should be boundaries for some of the content available online.

I'm sure you have heard of YouTube, MySpace, Ebaumsworld and other Web sites often used to watch videos. Don't hesitate to admit that anytime you see or hear of a new hilarious or vulgar video, you cannot wait to share it with a friend. We all do it - myself included.

And while it is always fun to laugh at another's expense, I have seen a few videos lately that are purely distasteful and uncalled for.

One that sticks out in my mind is a video of two girls sitting on a round-n-round at a park, and a dirt bike is being used to spin the ride at frightening speeds. After the forces become too much to handle, the girls are thrown off the spinning ride and obviously injured. I'll admit I laughed the first few times I watched this scene, but now that I think about it, it would be embarrassing for the girls who were injured as well as their families.

This is just one of the many disturbing things I have seen on YouTube. I'm sure you could think of something even more unsettling.

I thought that was the worst I had seen so far, until I read a news article about a video that showed six teens beating up a 16-year-old girl. It is unclear whether the short clip could be seen on YouTube or MySpace, but from the comments left below the article, it appears that the video is available online for anyone to see.

After reading people's responses, I realized something needs to be done about this.

While you may not believe it's a big deal, think of anyone you know who is under the age of 16. Is this something they should be watching?

As I see all these videos on sites like YouTube, I cannot help but think of my younger siblings watching clips of beatings, inappropriate images and crude language.

Let's face it - the youth of America is turning more toward the Internet for entertainment than to TV screens.

According to a 2006 study from Jupiter Research, online users spend as much time surfing the Web as they do watching TV. The Internet, the study shows, is becoming the most important medium for many Americans. However, I can imagine that the Internet has far surpassed TV in popularity since this study.

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So if the airwaves are being monitored by government organizations, why is the Internet still so open? I have heard such excuses as using the Internet requires a bit more effort than just pressing the power button on a TV, but is it really as difficult as we think it is for a child to access the World Wide Web? I think not.

I understand that sites such as YouTube and MySpace have regulations and disclaimers. They even have a crew of people who surf videos throughout the day to weed out the inappropriate material. While this is beneficial for these sites, what about the rest of the material that may be deemed as unsuitable?

As the Internet becomes increasingly popular, steps need to be taken to keep up with the technology.

Our government should provide free downloadable software that protects underage children from viewing potentially harmful material. Just like they've regulated television and radio, the Internet is no less dangerous.

Rebecca Ganzak is a journalism senior. Her column appears on Thursdays.

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