How would a child know Disney from pornography?

Published: November 5, 2011

In retrospect, we were lucky Disney was the first site we visited.

Sometime around the start of the new millennium, my sister and I stumbled upon the internet.  We didn’t have a computer at home back then, and my uncle’s ancient Windows 98 OS used to sit temptingly at his wooden desk every time we visited him. Naturally, the world of computers was a fascinating mystery for us. While the adults of the family were more cautious about clicking the wrong buttons on the elusive machine, as kids we had little qualms about that and sleuthed our way around.

Lazy summer afternoons were often spent creating “masterpieces” on MS Paint, navigating through the Disney’s Lion King game and generally trying out new computer features. One day while we were exploring a newly discovered ‘favourites’ bar, the name ‘Disney’ caught our eye on the default radio list. When you’ve grown up with ‘Disney is Magic’,  that’s sure to catch your eye.

Clicking it, a fascinating new box popped up that said something along the lines of ‘requested content is not available offline. To view this page, click connect’. So that’s exactly what we did. This was in the antiquated times of dial-up internet, and we were intrigued at the sound of a phone dial tone coming out of the PC speakers. In a few minutes, our blank screen was coloured by Disney characters, and it was cartoon heaven for us. Soon we were clicking on our favourite characters, playing games and exploring the website. We had no idea that we were on something called the internet; in fact our vocabulary was pretty limited in the IT lexicon.

In retrospect, we were lucky Disney was the first site we visited. Children-friendly with internet safety rules, it was good training for the internet world. However, looking back, exploring the online world on our own was probably not the safest idea. While we still followed our parents’ “no talking to strangers” rule, it was increasingly difficult to monitor, although the computer’s central location helped.

Eventually we got around to computer education at school in a classroom setting as well, but that too surprisingly only cursorily focused on netiquette and Internet Safety rules.  In school, internet (not to mention the taboo of chatting) seemed to be treated as a terrible evil and thus it had the allure of a forbidden fruit. And as we grew up, message boards and internet forums became a part of internet surfing, and later the infamous Orkutone of the first social networking websites that was popular in Pakistan.

Today, the internet has become wired in our lives, and life is unimaginable without it. Websites like Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized social media, and at the same time have created new issues of online privacy and internet safety. About 20 million Pakistanis have internet access according to the Freedom of the Net Report 2011, and this number is growing. And while this figure shows that the majority of Pakistan’s 184 million still do not have internet access, (although in contrast about 61% of the population has access to mobile phone technology), a 20 million figure begs for a greater discussion of internet regulation in Pakistan today.

With an ever-growing number of children exploring the online world, it is integral that internet safety be highlighted more in the media, and especially on the internet. The dangers of cyber-bullying, sexual predators, pornography etc. for children are real and ubiquitous on the internet.

While the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has been in the news lately with talks on a ban on pornography, it’s more important for children to be educated on these issues rather than outright top-down regulation. Bans and censorship are the least effective method for controlling the dangers of cyberspace. Even simple awareness of online privacy and what to share online create a better response.

Instead there should be greater awareness of internet safety among both parents and children. Parents should educate themselves more about this issue, schools should recognize the pros and cons of the internet, but more importantly, the media should play a bigger role in developing a healthy consciousness about the world wide web.

For more information on internet safety, click here.

Maha Kamal

Maha Kamal

A junior at Boston University majoring in International Relations and Journalism. She blogs at mahakamal.wordpress.com. You can follow her on twitter @emeskay

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mj

    Thank you for not jumping on the ‘ban’ bandwagon. Plenty of tools exist for parents to exercise control over what their kids have access to online. Parents should do their job instead of expecting the government to babysit their children. Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    Your subject matter was good, but the rest of the text is non-coherent. Moreover, the title is perplexing. Recommend

  • http://www.rhythmofunity.com Sohaib

    My two friends became parents recently and I was amazed they signed up their son for a facebook account the day he was born. Like he is going to spend the rest of his life wired in these social networking but moral rusting websites. Recommend

  • http://fruitforbidden.wordpress.com/ Forbidden Fruit

    Parental control softwares are also “real and ubiquitous” solutions on the internet!Recommend

  • http://iblees.wordpress.com/ Haseeb Asif

    I agree, children must be given proper education about the internet so they don’t waste their precious time browsing imaginary feel-good crap like Disney and get straight to the good stuff. Recommend

  • Realist.

    yeah Dont ban porn.
    Ban FB again Right ?:D
    Ghairat Brigade ? :PRecommend

  • sami

    itni si baat ke liye apna Disney experience kyun sunaya? :/Recommend

  • SB

    how is the title related to the content of the article ? Recommend

  • anonymous

    disney is subliminal pornRecommend

  • lightning

    I saw a tv program showing a real life story of how four TEN YEAR OLD boys raped a 14-year old girl….an unimaginble crime for boys so young….the answer lies in both, banning pornography as well as creating awareness n giving education. U can not just tell a child not to look at porn, u r going to excite a child’s curiosity. There should b a ban too. Others should know there r better things in life than porn…grow up ppl….Recommend

  • Rational Mind

    PTA must ban Porn on the internetRecommend

  • AA

    The title picture is also misleading. The first impression you get is that the little mermaid is porn! While i am sure some people might think it is so, i wouldn’t be surprised if the ET article was proposing this as well. Please either remove it or put up something more relevant to the article.Recommend

  • H

    @RationalMInd

    Come on man, grown men and women who are hard-working and honest citizens should be AT LEAST allowed to have porn. Screw what the maulvis and PTA think, let these people have their porn, for god’s sake. They’ve already taken pretty much everything else, don’t take THAT too!Recommend

  • Parvez

    You used a lot of words to deliver the message but it was a good one. Recommend

  • Naseer

    Lol, u should really change the title. I thought u were gonna do an article on Illuminati’s ways of Porn in Disney Movies and shows. Recommend

  • Modazul

    Porn is the worst way to learn about sex. Porn is misleading. Why does a couple need porn? They don’t need porn!! Intact while being married, watching other people naked and doin things which you’re not supposed to see others doings is WRONG!! plus imagie a man or a woman starts watching naked people when their spouse is not around…that’s like CHEATING. Ban porn. I live in a country where porn is banned and it does help. Atleast a little kid who is not aware of PROXIES will be away from porn if he ever
    Stumbles upon a porn site. PLEASE liberal people atleast think of kids. They are dumb to know what’s wrong or rightRecommend

  • umwhat

    Sleazy titles that have nothing to do with the article. It’s like your trademark, ET. Stay classy.Recommend

  • obscurantist

    u talked very little about the topic and [no offences] it was more of a grotesque bumpy stuff swaying al around.
    i mean how much did u talk ON the topic? a mere single line :P
    anyhow the content is good (if i take into account each para alone and not threaded)Recommend

  • Britistani

    lmao, your title is very misleading. Recommend

  • http://zealforwriting.blogspot.com Sarah B. Haider

    @Rational Mind: Well this is rather pathetic, people see the key word “porn” and their gush of adrenaline blind their opinion. Pay some heed to read the whole piece.Recommend

  • JD!!

    That was a nice article, reminds us of our childhood !Recommend

  • http://bakedsunshine.wordpress.com Shumaila

    The title is a bit misleading :)

    But I really liked your point. There are lots of ways for preventing a child’s access to pornography and the dangers of the internet, the simplest being to talk to them about it. Then there are filters and practical measures like keeping the computer in an open place and monitoring time spent online.

    Banning porn is Definitely not a solution, moreover, it will not remove other very real dangers, such as that of sexual predators or other potentially dangerous content. Parents need to be more aware, that’s all. Recommend

  • Amn Rahman

    Great article Maha! Recommend

  • anonymous

    Disney ruined my mind. Recommend

  • Oonib

    Disney characters have spoiled our child hood :D i hve grown up watching penokio telling lie, Cinderella running away from her home midnight, snow white living alone with guys, aladin and Popeye both has girl friend :D now why do my elders complain when i come late home, when i hang around with girls ! that’s what i hve grown up watching and being appreciated too :D Recommend

  • Nomez

    In a society where sex education itself is taboo how do you expect parents to educate their children about internet safety. I think for starters banning these sites is the only viable interim solution.Recommend

  • Gigidy

    Gigidy!Recommend

  • sz

    There are alot of parents who doesnt know how internet works but there children are net freaks whats in that case and i am sure there are many parents like that. Recommend

  • Ahmad

    To answer your title question, ones a cartoon, the other involves people without clothes.Recommend

  • http://urduseek.com ks

    Its parents duty that they restrict and control their children’s net usage. There should be a time limit set (eg: 1 to 2 hour daily usage). Mac has built-in usage limit features but for PC you have to use additional software like Child Control (http://salfeld.com/lp/child-control.html).

    Kidzui is also a good browser for children (http://www.kidzui.com). Recommend

  • Yasir

    PTA is Authority not Regularity, so they have no power to block pornography till until Government of Pakistan (Ministry) issues order. Government has already spent all million dollars for blocking pornography sites, and it was achieved too. But unfortunately business at Arab’s investment for internet companies was start degrading. For their privilege Pakistan has roll back all efforts.
    Please try your best to have parental check on PCs else these have to be faced by all internet users. Recommend

  • http://helium.com khalid humayun

    The question attracted me to read the write up – what a waste! If a problem is highlighted with no cogent suggestion, its just a cry not to be addressed. Every criticism should be associated with some suggestions. Instead, the authoress filled her write up on how she started playing video games on puter. Some security and parental lock softwares have been discussed in one line so to say, but not going in depth although this is a serious issue. Right and wrong, black and white, all primaries are the foremost duty of parents for a child. A child does not go in the market to buy a lap top, their parent do this job, therefore, it is their duty that they take precautions. Road to red light areas is not cordoned, it is open for every body. Only those people go there that had not got a good nurture or no morality lessons in their childhood. Same is the case of internet, you can go google, wikipedia, libraries etc. to gain knowledge or you can go a porn site. The choice depends on how much your parents have contributed on your character. It is as simple as that.Recommend

  • Fatima Syed

    When you ban something, it creates curiosity. Human nature! So instead of banning the use of internet or television, we should properly educate our children about right and wrong. This will boost up their confidence as well. They will feel “involved” resulting in them picking up the right path. Also we ourselves should refrain from the use of internet in this regard. Use it as a medium of rightfulness! Recommend

  • http://helium.com khalid humayun

    I highly commend Fatima Syed points which I missed big time in my previous comment. Man is a curious animal. Something you are asked not to do, you are tempted to enter that forbidden zone – this is pure psychology that plays a big part in a man’s life cycle from childhood to maturity. Parental nurture is a 24-hour job seven days a week.

    Nonetheless, kudos to Fatima.Recommend

  • PTA officials

    Thanks for the idea we’ll try to ban Internet in Pakistan. As the famous urdu saying goes “na rahega bans or na baje gi bansuri”. :) have good day.Recommend

  • S

    The banning of certain words on text is what has confused me the most.
    How could the PTA be so stupid?Recommend

  • Mehroz Khan

    Nice topic keep it up …..Recommend