Debating in school gives teenagers the opportunity to explore their opinions and ideas in a controlled environment. Teenagers often have very strong feelings, particularly in relation to issues surrounding the Internet. Discussing these issues can help them develop their debating skills. It will also help teenagers to learn how to discuss issues in a calm, non-confrontational way.
The Internet: good or bad?
The subject of the Internet divides opinion. There is no doubt that it provides easy access to information, research, resources and entertainment and many find social networking sites and services such as online shopping invaluable. The Internet also allows us to learn about the world and other countries -- we can see what is happening on the other side of the world as it is happening. However, some argue that the Internet is having a negative impact -- exposing young people to obscene or dangerous images and ideas for example. Ask your class to think about and research both negative and positive aspects of the Internet and then to debate whether it is a force for good or bad in society.
How free is free speech?
There have been many high profile cases recently around the issue of what you can and can’t say online. Have teams debate whether what is said on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter should be regulated. Should anyone be able to post anything about anyone? What are the implications of lying about someone online or bullying a classmate? Have one half of your class speak for regulation while the other half defends complete freedom of speech online.
How much is too much?
Many teenagers will no doubt have had arguments with their parents about how much time they spend online. This is a topic that will resonate with most of your class. Have students debate how long a teenager should be allowed to spend online. Should a parent be able to decide when their child can access the Internet?
Who is responsible?
Teenagers can access many things they shouldn’t online. Many of them are more Internet savvy than their parents and parental controls don’t always filter out everything you would hope. Who should be making sure that children and teenagers only see things that are appropriate? Have your class discuss who should really make sure the Internet is safe. Should it be down to parents to regulate what their children see? Or do Internet service providers have a responsibility too?