Recently I read the book Protecting Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers by Gregory S. Smith. My department head gave it to me to borrow so that those that are in my office would have a shared knowledge of a specific view of internet safety issues.
For those that are less technology savvy, the book provides an outline to most major technologies and how they work. It outlines strategies for ensuring students are safe online and it has a graphic section of examples of children that were not being safe online. Some parts of the book are interesting to read. I think the outline is great for parents and teachers to read so they can quickly get up to speed with current technologies students are using. I also think some of the procedures that Mr. Smith outline to stay safe, like setting up accounts for each one of your children on your computer, setting clear guidelines for internet use, keeping track of your child’s accounts, etc. are good points. I also like some of the statistics that he outlines in his book.
On the other hand, I find his view very conservative and scare mongering at times. I totally disagree with installing key logging software and steal spy software on home computers to keep track of what your children are doing on their computer as completely over the top and uncalled for. He also outlines many times how easy it predators as well as how dangerous it can be by making the smallest of mistakes.
Scare mongering tactics likes this insight media to focus on the negative aspects of the internet, social media and a range of other online services. I think this has a very negative effect because for those that are not educated in the area, it arouses a lot of fear and emotions. When in actual fact, it’s not like that at all. But my problem always was that, I could never find any facts or figures that were unbiased and not drenched in fear or hype. Until I read an article in The Daily Best named The Myth Of Online Predators by Lenore Skenazy. Now I finally have the fodder I needed when discussing these issues. The amazing article breaks down the stigma, emotion and fear of online stalkers and gives us some statistics and facts surrounding online predators (I love statistics!). My favourite is:
“Millions of people under age 18 joined the
online world, and 107 more creeps were
arrested for soliciting them.”
Another fact was that internet usage amongst juveniles rose 20% in the five year period of one of the studies she mentioned, while the number of arrests of predators soliciting actual youth went up by 21%. That means there was roughly a 1% rise in arrested predators soliciting youth, when compared to the number of juveniles online.
Another mental picture bought up in the article was the idea of predators trolling through social media websites looking for children would have about as much luck as flicking through the phone book and asking children on a date. I think it’s interesting when you make a comparison like that because it puts it into context for someone that is not a digital native.
I think these notions help put some of the scare mongering tactics into perspective. Of course, I’m not saying that the internet should be open slather for children, obviously there are still many dangers associate with internet use by children and juveniles. It’s like the ocean, if you respect it, know your limits and don’t do anything silly, it can be an amazing experience.
It reminds me of a time a parent spoke to me about her daughter. She said her daughter is old enough to have a facebook account but they weren’t sure if they would allow it. Her question was, “is facebook safe?” We didn’t have time to chat, but I pondered the question personally. I came to the conclusion that facebook is like driving. Yes it’s could be dangerous if you are reckless and have no regard for yourself of others. But if you know how to drive and follow a few common sense rules, it can have a very large, positive outcomes on your life. Would you restrict your child from driving, simply because there could be a chance that they could become reckless and get hurt?