The Internet is totally the rock-and-roll of this generation of parents. For those who remember The Great Terror of Elvis' hips, or the record burnings, or--well, anything that young people indulged in that was new. It's sort of like that. Not completely. But sort of.
Okay, yes, there are people out there who want to sanitize the world. I've always thought that was less about 'children' and more about catering to their own beliefs or aesthetics, to be honest. They want *everyone* to think and do as they do, etc. Kids are just a convenient excuse. Anything is a convenient excuse. They'd use *pencils* as a convenient excuse.
(see WFI for example A of this)
But there is another group entirely. That's the actual worried parents, the ones that this is Rock and Roll all over again.
I mean--I'm not scared of Child being online because I'm familar with it. I know how to check cache and how to check history and I also know what he'll likely go for as he gets older and am familiar with how it works. I know all the major chat programs and some of the less known ones. I know email and how to go through it, how to IP check. I know to watch the webpages he's on and I know what to look for when he gets old enough to socialize on the computer. I keep up with where teens seem to congregate and will probably watch more as time goes on and Child gets closer to wanting to use the internet for more than yahoo games.
I also know that nothing I do will protect him perfectly, that I'll need to direct teach as well--block some places, explain others, clarify my reasons on everything forbidden, make him understand all my reasons and my worries. I also know how to remove his wireless card and cripple all the computers in the house to keep him off if I have to.
And that no matter what I do, short of forbidding him access to the outside world altogether, he'll be there with only the memory of what I taught him to protect him.
I do think a part of the terror is that this is a total unknown. And for a lot of parents who *don't* use it frequently, or don't spend quality time doing nothing but surfing aimlessly and googling and wikipediaing randomly, it's huge and scary and impossible to guard against.
And they're *told* this. They're told by the news and Sanitizing People and people worried about too much change. But some of them? Are normal parents. Some vote Democrat and are liberal on social issues, but mention the internet and they go into the blank zone. It's this huge, massive, interconnecting road that has no maps they can read and no signs to follow. They feel like they're sending their child outside with a big sign saying "VICTIM HERE!"
They don't understand it.
I'd love to do a weekly class on internet use. Not the mouse/IE/Firefox, here is how you click on and here is yahoo news, either.
I'd make them get livejournals and myspace accounts and facebook accounts (yes, all three). Register them in forums, as many as they can read. I'd send them into communities and show them how to interact with others, learn netiquette. Learn email and which accounts to let their kids get, how to set them up, how to monitor. What to watch for. How to check IPs for goodness sake.
I'd pull in experts from messageboards and forums and explain the different cultures throughout the net, give them examples of what to worry about, what not to. Make them join fandom if only as a lurker and watch us. Make them join a group that caters to their own hobby, so they can have fun while they learn. Teach them mailing lists and the basics of how internet people interact. Set them free in blogland if they've never been there. Make sure they check out more than The Conservative Movement Against Anything That Resembles Thinking.
Show them google and snopes and wikipedia. The chat programs, both major and minor.
Give them maps and teach them to read them.
It's--hmm. I wish parents would do it now, to be honest. But for some, I think a native guide would be necessary, better, easier than trying to learn it alone. For a parent who doesn't use it daily, have it integrated into their daily lives like network television, it feels huge and terrible, impossible to learn. I think, in their shoes, I'd feel helpless.
Actually, I kind of have fandom to thank for the fact I'm not. I was *motivated* to learn, was encouraged to learn, was *rewarded* for learning.
I do a lot of random surfing for stories I'm writing, for fic, for people, and a lot of chatting, I use livejournal to socialize, and both my sisters have MySpace accounts. I don't pretend I know everything, but I do know enough to be a good guide for my kid.
Seriously, my *porn habit* is what did this. That has to be ironic on some level.
I'm not saying that would bring an end to the Save the Children From The Evil Internet, because, let's face it, there will always be the Santizing Folks, and even the Sanitize For Kids folks, and the lazy folks who seriously cannot be bothered, and other myriad groups with their own reasons.
But I do think that it would be a start. I mean, when is the last time there was a mass effort to burn CDs of rock and roll?*
*has there been recently? Please say no.