At school, Science was one of my favourite subjects. Discovering the different phases of the Moon, exploring the effects of water on magnesium (whether the teacher was looking or not!), and creating things that I could take home to my parents (recycled paper made from other bits of scrap paper, anyone?).
I also remember that, in the middle of all the exploration, discovery and creation, Science often came with an element of danger. A lot of Do’s and Don’ts. Do wear your lab coat. Do wear your safety goggles. Don’t see how long you can hold your hand over the Bunsen burner. Don’t flick hydrochloric acid at your classmates – at least, not with your bare hands!
Although Science opened the door to countless opportunities, it came with clear advice: whenever possible, protect yourself from potential trouble.
Now replace the word ‘Science’ with ‘the internet’.
(That was the sound of your mind being blown).
Despite the many dangers found online, we haven’t managed to instil a sense that caution is required when exploring the internet, in the same way that from a very young age we learn that caution is required when doing scientific experiments.
We have, however, created a range of adequate tools for protection, in the event that someone does want to be protected: parental control software, antivirus software, making sure young children only use their tablet in the living room… the goggles, gloves, and lab coat of internet exploration.
The thing is, you can provide all the in-lab protection gear you want but if a child wanders into a testing area, it’s likely they will get burnt. In other words, when internet safety is discussed, the issue of appropriate access has to be included.
I believe that Yoti will play a huge part in overcoming the challenges of content access online. The digital ‘ID badge’ that will allow people to quickly confirm that they have the right (and the right age) to be in that oh-so-exciting bunker where moments of boundless creativity and fun are interspersed with trapdoors to pits filled with sharp pointy things.
Yoti arrives in Summer 2016. In the meantime, got your internet safety goggles on?
By Alex Harvey