Protecting Kids On the Internet: Impossible?
I'm not a parent but yesterday's discussion on the MySpace vs. parents of the child assaulted by a MySpace predator case brought up some fascinating points from a parenting vs. technology standpoint.
One person left this comment on the posting, which I found really got to the nub of the issue: "Realistically, what teenager 'needs' Internet access or a cellphone?? The answer, of course, would be none. Sure, one can always make the argument that there are cases where it's warranted, but those cases are not the norm for the whole of our society."
Think about this. The wonderful technological innovations of even the past decade -- high-speed Internet, nearly universal mobile phone service, texting and so on -- have brought the world closer in a way never before possible.
It is simply understood that these things are good. That we should have them because we can have them.
But is that correct?
I'm about the farthest thing from a Luddite I know. I routinely harangue my journalist friends and colleagues who only watch free, over-the-air TV and don't have cable or satellite.
But this may be different.
Internet predation has become a pervasive problem.
Cable companies and ISP providers sell us high-speed Internet service to our homes with commercials showing parents and kids looking at educational sites together (usually, it seems, video of a whale). But one wrong turn down the Internet's many dark alleys and the kids are seeing stuff they shouldn't. Scarier, the bad things of the Internet don't stay in the alleys anymore; they come looking for the kids where they play, such as on MySpace.
Parents have some options, such as filtering software and applications that let you watch on your computer what your kid is watching on their computer.
But is this the 21st-century equivalent of forbidding your 13-year-old from watching R-rated movies, only to find them watching these movies later at their friend's house on HBO?
How much can parents protect their children from increasingly pervasive technology and the many bad things that can come from it? How much should they protect them?
Are the MySpaces and Comcasts and Earthlinks of the world completely blameless? As a parent, is it even possible to completely protect your children in this era?
Discuss. Let me hear your stories.
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