The Internet Is Not A Luxury. It needs to be said before we go any further.
If you have children, they need it for homework and studies. They need it to send in assignments and to keep up to date with coursework. “Libraries!” I hear some of you shouting, “Go to an Internet Cafe!” All well and good, but for a lot of people, their nearest library is in the centre of their town or city and would mean a two mile walk each way. Sometimes more. The walk would have to be done daily after school–because buses are not cheap and feet are free. This is, of course, after leaving the house at 7:30am, walking the half an hour to school in all weathers and putting in a full day of studying. Internet Cafes’ charge for the privilege of using the computers. It is not a viable option for most.
To not have the internet at home, a child from a poor family would have to stay out of the family home for approximately (in our case and based on the distances my daughter walks to school) another three hours. She would not get home until around 7pm at night…and would have to walk in the dark, through a not-exactly-great area of the city (neither myself or my husband drive; we cannot afford a car…and cannot afford the lessons anyway). Meg is a straight A student. She dreams of university life and becoming a doctor. It is all she has wanted to do since she was four years old. At just turned sixteen, she keeps a relentless study schedule. She works from 8.00am through to 9.00pm as it is. At home, she is safe, [mostly]warm and can eat her dinner as she studies.
The Internet Is Essential. We are told the way to lift ourselves high and achieve riches untold, is to be well-educated and get a professional career. Are only the children of the comfortable and the rich allowed to follow this dream? Are the children of the poor to be raised with the depressing knowledge in their young heads that their lot in life is to serve the children of the rich? To clean, and sweep and toil and slave, with no hope of realising their aspirations and dreams…because school work now requires an internet connection, to get the best education available. Each time a struggling family is told their internet is a luxury, they are told their children do not deserve the access to it in the home. They are told their children should be thankful for their lot, and stay in the ‘place’ they were born.
There are disabled people, housebound and alone for weeks on end. They do not have the option of walking the two miles (or more) to their library, to be able to sit down and make some contact with relatives living apart from them. To see pictures of their newest little cousins, or a new grandchild. They cannot spare the money from their living allowances or benefits to use an internet cafe. To say to them that the Internet is a luxury they can do without, to save money, is to isolate them and cage them in their loneliness. The quality of life of the elderly and infirm increases dramatically, if they are taught to use a computer, laptop or even a smart-phone, and can access and utilise the web. Depression caused by isolated living is lifted, just a little. Shopping can be done, friends spoken with, people contacted, programmes watched. The Internet is essential. That they need to choose between eating, heating, or human contact is appalling, and they should not be expected to make that choice.
Job seekers are told, by the Job Centre, to apply for an initial interview online. School Admittance Forms? Fill them out online. Best grocery offers? Online. Job searching? Property rental? Council Housing Register? You’ve guessed it–it’s all online.
Is it reasonable, therefore, to look at the poorest sections of our society and tell them to save money–sometimes as little as £6.99 a month–by getting rid of their internet. Are we, as a society, so judgemental that we believe those in the poorest households must sit in the dark, without a television, without a computer, without communication? Is that what we have become, now, thanks to the portrayal of poverty in the media? To take away the web, is to disconnect more than Google. It is to disconnect ourselves.
If you are affected by any of these issues and would like to chat, or ask for help, please do contact my Facebook page HERE. I answer all messages that come through to me and will always try to point you in the right direction if you need help/advice.