Unrestrained access to the internet without any form of authorization is then a terrible way of protecting the young and the innocent. Relying on a single device with restricted content can easily be worked around by any curious child with a tomato for a brain. The danger is no longer just "out there" in the dark streets but rather in your house, on the sheet of black glass in your child's hands. So why is it that we allow this? Do we not care? Is the problem too difficult to solve? After all, the same situation has existed since the days of television and we don't have broken human beings scarred by exposure to such content. To get a better perspective on this, let us examine the differences between a child exposed to inappropriate content on television versus a child exposed to the internet.
Before ubiquitous access to the internet became the norm, families watched television. It served as the main source of entertainment for the entire family and was often situated as the center piece of every living room in households around the world. Children for the most part were exposed to inappropriate content through this medium, often staying up late to catch a glimpse of whatever taboo thing that spiked their interests. The adults were expected to ensure that the children were not watching such content by keeping televisions out of their bedrooms and making sure that they were in bed on time. But no matter how inappropriate the content may have been, there was a limit to what was shown on late night television for the general public. If you wanted to watch something more explicit, you had to opt in separately, often paying for the content. Thus the exposure to danger was controlled by the system by default. Let us now contrast this with internet access using a tablet or a phone.
First of all, a child may or may not have restricted access to websites and apps through parental controls. Those who do not have restricted access are automatically exposed to the entirety of the internet. This single point of failure can easily disseminate any content to their network of friends through a variety of channels. If the restricted access is in place, then perhaps some of these channels are also restricted but the likelihood is that it will be circumvented by some other means. On such a restricted access device, a child is still able to query through search engines and look up harmless words or made-up secret words that will expose them to inappropriate content. One has to assume that they can be very inventive and they will inform one another of such methods, as all children naturally do. Thus the only recourse left is to restrict all internet access unless it can be monitored directly. It's as if the internet was fire and the child must never be allowed to be alone with it. Comparing internet access to television then is like comparing apples to oranges. So what can be done about it?
I for one want to see a clean internet accessible to anyone of any age as the default. It's akin to cleaning up your street outside your front door. When that street is clean, children are safe to play. It doesn't make any sense to have a war zone outside your front door and expect your children to not become casualties. At least provide a safe door or an bunker access so that they won't have to deal with it until they're ready. No sensible society should expect their children to become internet Rambos at the age of 4 nor should parents be forced to accept such inadequate protection from governing bodies.
Judge the tree by its fruits. But remember to...
Wash the beam out of your eye with soap.