2015.5.18 KIP Forum "The Internet: Friend or Foe?"
Mr.Ian de Stains, OBE FCIArb, the Executive Director of TELL

The executive director of TELL (Tokyo English Life Line), Mr. Ian de Stains gave us a talk about the effects of Internet on youth. The Internet has changed our lives in so many ways, both good and bad. We talked about how to deal with the consequences since the spread of the Internet.

Internet has enabled us to gain information, stay in touch with our loved ones even if we are apart from each other, have fun with online games, and so on. On the other hand, it can also be a tool to hurt others or become distant because of less face-to-face interactions. During the forum, as our guess speaker talked about “Hikikomori”, which is to be anti-social and spend so much time on the Internet, being particularly unique to young Japanese men, we talked about why that is so in a ground discussion form. Then, in our group discussions, we exchanged opinions in how to regulate cyber bullying, which is a worldwide concern.

Having students from America, we had various points of views, which were all very interesting. One student said that there is nothing intrinsically bad about the Internet, as anonymity can be a virtue in some cases. It strongly depends on how people use it. Another interesting opinion particularly on “Hikikomori” was that, although we had been talking about it as a problem, when you think about young people, who dropped out of high schools, turn to drugs and gangs in America, being absorbed into the Internet seems to be a good alternative. Another student stated that they might seem like they are anti-social but if they are forming a virtual community on their own, it does not mean that they cannot form a relationship with one another. We also had an interesting cross-cultural conversation on the topic. By comparing the situation with America, we came to a conclusion that how the “Hikikomori” is unique to Japanese men could attribute to the social and cultural status that men hold in Japanese society.

In the second half of the forum, we talked about how to prevent or regulate cyber bullying. As it is extremely difficult to regulate whatever people put out on the Internet, because it goes against the Freedom of speech, we finally came to a consensus where we should have schools systematically educate students on this matter.

Through the discussions, I realized how much Internet has enabled us to have diversity in our life styles. There is a new medium like You Tube to express ourselves, or a platform where we can form a kind of a relationship that we had never been able to in the past. To conclude, to catch up with the rapid changes we are going through, I thought the values, laws and systems should follow too. The Internet should, by all means, stay as something that makes us live happier and never become our foe. (Yuko Yokoi)