The internet is not a safe place for kids, as was made abundantly clear on the Late Late Show when a 13-year-old girl was approached for rude pictures by a presumed predator in under 9 minutes. The time was the alarming part, the intent, well that’s a sad fact of life and has been for decades in Ireland. Being online just makes everything that bit easier, but is offline life in Ireland any safer?
It’s never been easier to identify, approach, groom and actually meet vulnerable children, a contradiction in terms because aren’t all children vulnerable?
And then the Irish answer, don’t allow children to have mobile phones. And are things gone so bad that it’s really being debated if the children, 13-year-old, mind, shouldn’t be allowed a mobile phone, surely it’s the predators that shouldn’t be allowed the mobile phone!
The same answer that doesn’t allow ‘Nuala’ a leader of the girl guides to deal with a toilet accident unless there is another adult present and two more children present to bear witness. The same answer that doesn’t allow a primary school teacher to take a child on their knee if they fall. Not allowed, a triumph for legislation over common sense.
Several times I’ve had friends scoff at the rigid ways in Qatar. ‘I don’t know how you live in it, I’d feel so restricted’, is often the feedback. I’m not about to pull a prayer mat out of my MK shopper or throw the abaya on over my skinny jeans but there are other aspects of life in Qatar that work well, safety for one. The rules in Qatar is what makes it safe for our children to play outside for hours on end with no risk of abduction. It’s no problem for them to have a phone at any age or be on social media sites. And if you’re running late for school pick up, ring a taxi and send your child home in a Uber, not a problem here in Qatar, why?
One, there’s a guard, two or three in fact at the gate of each compound. Two, unless you have business in that housing estate, you are not allowed in. Three, I’m going to stop counting after this, even if you have business, are invited, you must present your National ID to the guard who will keep it until you leave. There is no risk of your child leaving as the guard are watching this too. It is not possible to buy a SIM card without your national ID and so thereafter you are accountable for everything your do online. Bear in mind that our internet is censored. There is no access to porn or gambling websites. The taxi driver is safe because he knows one strike and he’s out.
None of this is so in Ireland, the land where legislation and rules are rolled out at great expense to the taxpayer but come with little consequence, and in turn offer little reassurance to the general public. Why, because everyone in Ireland has a right. Criminals have a right to appeal all or any of the 57 charges against them, not only that, they have a right to free legal assistance to help them exercise their right. Predators have a right to drive around, park outside or loiter by any school, housing estate, playground. And even after they’ve been accused, sentenced and ‘rehabilitated’ in respectful surroundings, they are released back into the community and have a right to privacy and a right to protection should they feel threatened. A sim card can be bought for 10 Euro with 10 Euro credit on it, and the internet is uncensored, porn ahoy! All you can eat, delivered almost free to every home in Ireland, why? Because… you’ve guessed, it’s a right! Could it be made any easier? For every right that’s offered to one, a right is being taken away from another, like the right to protection, safety and a just legal system.
In Qatar our children are safe and sound both on and offline, we might not have all the rights, but we have the right rights! Happy to offer up porn, gambling, tank tops, supermarket wine and ham for safety while back in Ireland, it seems in the fruitless strive for jam on both sides, there’s jam on neither!