Call to regulate Internet cafes

The Children’s Ombudsman has called for reforms to regulate the access youngsters have to Internet cafes, and even to set up «child-friendly» Internet cafes, so that youngsters are protected from exposure to sexually explicit material on the web and from the impact of unrestricted smoking on their health. «Legislation governing the operation of Internet cafes is inadequate and needs immediate reform to protect underage customers from the various risks threatening their physical and mental health,» Children’s Ombudsman Giorgos Moschos said after a meeting with representatives of child protection groups and organizations representing Internet cafe owners. The representatives attending the meeting agreed on a series of proposed measures to curb these risks. They include the requirement that children aged under 14 wanting to attend an Internet cafe provide a written note of permission from their parents and that under-16s be barred from entering such establishments after midnight. Other proposed moves are to step up state checks of Internet cafes and introduce legislation allowing the creation of special Internet cafes for children where smoking would be banned and computers would all be fitted with special filters to block access to pornographic material. According to Moschos these reforms should be pushed through immediately to restrict the amount of time being spent by children in cafes which «has spiralled out of control over the past few years.» The abundance of sexually explicit material freely accessible on the Internet is a chief concern but the growing range of Internet games that keep children transfixed to their screens for hours is also a worry. Another important initiative, to be carried out alongside reforms, is a media campaign to inform children, parents and Internet cafe owners across the country of the new regulations. Further special studies should be carried out to determine what the current situation is in Internet cafes across Greece, representatives attending yesterday’s meeting agreed.