Staff Reporter

PALMA
HE comes home from school, drops his rucksack, eats as fast as he can, then goes to his bedroom to chat with the friend he left only a while ago.
And this is not an isolated case. Some 68.7 percent of boys between 10 and 14 years old on the Balearics are habitual users of the internet, three percentage points more than the national average to 65.1 percent.

Teacher and member of the Office for the defence of Children's Rights, Bartomeu Mut describes them as the “net generation”, young people born into the technological era. “It's nothing new for them because they have grown up with it”, said Mut, and he compared them with the “cathodic generation” who lived during the time of changes which saw the introduction of television.

As Mut explains, young people are more expert than their parents in the use of the internet, with the consequent difficulties for parents”. But the net is turning from a valuable information tool into a danger.

Antoni Bennassar, director of the Office for the Defence of Children's Rights in the Balearics, explained that “the risks are multiple, from the accessing of inappropriate websites to an obsession with computer games”.

Avoiding these dangers is a complicated task “which needs to involve both society and the administrations, which should make parents and teachers aware of the necessity to ensure a responsible use of the internet”.

In 2008, the Office will create the Observatory of Vigilance for the Rights of Children on the internet, with expert investigators who will look for dangers on the net. “The internet is not a black hole, it is a magnificent tool, but parents should adapt themselves to a digital and responsible culture”, said Bennassar.

His office processes “between 20 and 30 cases annually, via complaints and official investigations”.
The majority are cases of “cyberbullying” and pages where children paste photographs and risk having their identity stolen.
Anything suspicious can be reported to the Office via their website. With regard to the more serious cases, such as child pornography, these are dealt with by the Children's Public Prosecutor or the Guardia Civil.

Children run the risk of having their data protection rights threatened, their picture distributed and also falling prey to child pornography gangs.
They are also at risk of receiving trick publicity, false information, and implicitly pornographic images.
Children can suffer problems associated with their inability to absorb so much information, loss of social skills, a dependency on the internet or an obsession with computer games.

The Balearics is the third region with the highest percentage of homes connected to the internet with broad band, 44.8 percent were connected in 2007, according to figures from the Spanish Ministry for Industry, Tourism and Commerce's report “Indications of the Information Society”. In front of the Balearics in the number of homes connected to the internet via broad band are Madrid (51.7 percent), the towns of Melilla and Ceuta, with percentages of 47.7 and 46.2 percent respectively, and Catalonia with 46 percent.

The regions with the least amount of homes connected to the internet via broad band are Extremadura, with 23.2 percent, Galicia, with 25.7 percent, Castilla La Mancha with 28.3 percent and Murcia with 31.5 percent.

With regard to the regions with the highest number of homes connected to the internet (not necessarily via broad band) Madrid is again in the top position with 56.6 percent, and Extremadura is again the last on the list with 30.3 percent

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