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[Op-Ed] Internet Ethics

Posted May. 09, 2009 17:29,   


A 30-something man who lost an online game was surprised to find out that the person who beat him was an elementary school student. When he told his age in an online chat, the student added insult to injury by saying, “You feel good for your old age, don`t you?” Children in Korea now begin using a computer mouse earlier than a pen. A 2005 joint survey on Internet use conducted by the Information and Communication Ministry and the National Internet Development Agency of Korea found that 47.9 percent of children aged between three and five use the Web.

Thanks to early access to the Internet, it is no exaggeration to say Korean elementary school students are the most skilled Internet users of their kind in the world. Such kids are dominating the Web in fields such as education, games, movies and entertainment, and their parents simply cannot keep up. Intellectual immaturity and unchecked desire, however, are causing many problems for these children. In a world with no intervention from parents and teachers, they indiscriminately post irresponsible replies, engage in personal attacks and plagiarism, use foul language, and become addicted to games.

Though the negative effects of the Internet are increasing, elementary schools have not properly educated students on Net etiquette. Ethics textbooks for first, second and third graders contain nothing on Internet manners. The textbook for fourth graders briefly mention the danger of Internet hacking and immorality of online plagiarism. Only in their fifth year of elementary school do students start to learn about Internet etiquette through the ethics textbook "The Internet and Other People’s Rights.”

A new ethics textbook for fourth graders will teach the dangers of false information spread on the Web from the second semester next year. It will raise awareness of the risks of unfounded online information by directly asking questions such as, “What will happen if you post false information on a closure on the school homepage?” Last year, the country suffered from false Internet postings and malicious replies, including untrue rumors on the safety of U.S. beef, a police officer’s assault on a female college student, and the late actress Choi Jin-sil’s involvement in loan sharking. To prevent people from being swayed by such unfounded data, children should be taught from a young age that order and ethics must be kept in the virtual world as in the real world. Since people today live in both worlds, ethics textbooks should reflect this reality.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)