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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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children and the internet
mmmm john
I've been thinking on and off about this for a bit, in regards to the Save the Children Movement, and a comment in my lj finally solidified what I was trying to get my head around. Part of this is pulled from my reply to someone else.

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.

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See--your guided tour plan? EXACTLY what people need. Maybe you should put up a lesson plan others can reference and pass on to antsy parents! =)

My 7th grader cousin is apparently reading fanfic right now. Her Mom doesn't know, and to be honest I'm (a) thrilled there's a fanfic reader other than me in the family and (b) worried about WHAT she could be reading. What I can be doing to guide/inform without shocking the conservative-Catholic-Schoolgirl (irony, I too am a product thereof, and I'm waaaay into slash =) who has had very little exposure to anything not mainstream. ::ponders::

*g* I'd totally drop them into communities and be like "THIS IS A CUT TAG. ALSO DO NOT SPOIL. THAT EQUALS DEATH". IT would be fun. *G*

Sink or swim, huh? That might work, considering parenting is the ultimate in that philosophy! No matter what, every kid is a new adventure in parenting, and every parent starts as a newbie, so the whole dive into the deep end OUGHT to be something parents are OK with!

The main problem, I think, is that those who are not in the know are not in the know because they (a) are afraid of the internet, (b) have no time or access, OR (c) don't believe anything of interest to them exist online. Those who don't participate find it hard to believe entire communities exist virtually, with identities and personalities and everything.

The only difference between IN HERE and OUT THERE is that, IN HERE the playground is both infinitely large and specific, the players are from everywhere and nowhere, of every age, creed and color, and the only monitors are the ones playing.

Good point on the not finding anything they would like online. Definitely send them to forums with their hobbies first then.

My 85 year old grandmother has joined an online church secretary bulletin board.

Seriously, you can find anything out there, to appeal to any hobby.

Hee. I had to shelter a younger friend through the straits of fanfiction. Basically, I let her go off in any direction she chose, made sure she knew I would answer any question without embarassing her, and then answered such questions as "what does 'uke' and 'seme' mean?".

Excellent points. And I'd love to see that class actually get off the ground -- it'd be a great resource for parents. Especially when you consider that kids are getting online earlier and earlier. So parents should know how to handle their kids' online activities in appropriate ways instead of trying to nerf everything in sight.

God yes. And they *learn* fast. For parents, knowing first is the best way.


There definitely needs to be those sort of classes...

There would be *powerpoint presentations*.


Possibly spreadsheets. And a laser pointer.

See, you should totally do this...

When my grandfather first heard that I "used the internet", back in... 92? His response was "I hear you can learn to make a bomb if you look on the internet."

I said "I hear you can learn to make a bomb if you look in the public library."

And that was the end of that.

I agree and the internet class is an wonderful idea because all of your points are valid and very true. I run circles around my mom with the internet and she's always coming to me for questions and this and that she's heard or read about concerning it.

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'm going to go do this for/to my mom. I mean, I've already started her down the path, but I think fandom is something she needs. Even if it's just OB-GYN fandom.

Also, I kind of envy you. You know what's going on right now, and you can shelter your kid through it. By the time I have kids, however, who knows what they'll be doing.

Oh well. It's not like keeping up with technology is boring.

I'd love to do a weekly class on internet use.

You so totally should!!!

That would really be an awesome class, and I bet your public library would let you do it.

I think you're very right. I lecture in the computer science department of a major uni. I discovered at tea the other day that lots of staff who are also parents of teenage kids either hadn't even heard of facebook or didn't know what it was. I then asked about myspace and twitter and MXIT (very big cell-phone chat program, similar to irc for your phone, that basically every kid in South Africa uses) and they didn't really know about those either. I was the only one over 25 who'd used any of these things.

Interestingly, when I mentioned MXIT, someone said "oh, that thing paedophiles use to lure kids?". The funny thing is that my teenage niece and nephew introduced me to MXIT. When i wanted to join a certain chatroom, they laughed and said "no wayz, that's where all the pedos hang out, aunty M, don't you know anything?!". They were genuinely incredulous that I didn't have the sort of street smarts that should inform me what was an wasn't safe in MXIT world, and they explained that no-one really talks to anyone on there who they didn't either meet at school or at the mall or [insert teenage hangout here].

Thus, my point is, it is all big and scary,and not just for the tech-illiterati, because it's a huge subculture that for many parents is, as you said, as bizarre and inexplicable as rock 'n roll once was. I think that most of the net-gen (of which it seems we are a part) are actually much safer there than people think, because it's their subculture - they drew the maps and set the rules.

Excellently put, Jenn! Now I need to have a look at our small but DSL-equipped local library, to see if they have any programs like that yet.

This is such a good idea. Our public library has these kinds of programs all the time. *ponders* And I could get an xkcd Online Communities poster as a visual aid.

I think it's not just Fear of the Unknown Internet, though. I connect it in my mind with the fear of abduction, which has got some parents (and I'm sure you know some, too) basically unwilling to ever let their kids outside unsupervised.

You should do that (I'd even say write a book, I thought about it when you first wrote about Child getting a laptop bc he shared your old one? with your sister, but with internet being so 'alive' book would get outdated very quickly) - I'm sure many would appreciate it! Maybe you could start a site?

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. I think one of hte problems is not only not knowing it, but that for many that is just too time consuming. And then when they decide to start it is just too overwhelming.

(BTW, been meaning to ask you for ages, when you say check/clear the cache, and I do apologise if this question equals how much is 1+1, you mean check clear the Temporary Internet Files?)

As the (adult) child of a parent who still vaguely believes that she might break the whole internet if she hits the wrong button, I'm not sure it's a "I'm not familiar with this newfangled thing" issue but a "I feel I am too old to learn newfangled things" issue. There's fear either way, but the former is more easily lessoned than the latter.

I know quite a few people my mother's age who really struggle with a mental block against the lifelong necessity of starting over as a newbie on something. These are liberal, educated people who don't have children in the home any more -- and they just struggle. Add in a hell-on-wheels preteen in the household, and the parent feeling the loss of control, and I can empathize with an adult who decides that everything invented after 1985 is evil and wrong.

Kick them in the ass, but empathize while I am doing it.

I think you're onto the right way to deal.

Unfortunately, most of the younger parents I know today would rather have their toes chewed off by rabid weasels than actually OMYGOD spend the TIME to actually know what their kid is doing. Not be afriad of it, not read a short article in Ladies Home Journal, actually spend the time to learn about it. They're all too busy working 24/7 and acquiring stuff, I think.

That would be an awesome class. You'd have to mention the basic internet lingo, and cat macros. And fandom wank. :))

(How do you check IP addresses?)

Those classes would be extremely good. Even some people who think and say they can use internet do not know how to properly interact with others through it.
I once had to teach an university friend, twenty-one years old, what netiquette was even thought he had been daily using the internet for more than 6 years now. He just had never stepped out of yahoo games, chat and emails. He had no idea how and what to post in forums, what a community was, the distinction between blogs, what are (and how to recognize) trolls from normal users, or how to manage confrontation. He was used to just fleeting away -- mid-way through my explanations he asked "but why should I bother? It's only the internet!". He simply did not truly get that behind every pixel of this huge curious place is a person, with thoughts, feelings, and who will react humanly just like anyone else, not a scary, hell-bent tentacled monster. Heck, even we sometimes forget it when ranting, that we might be hurting someone.

Most people, by now, know how to open a computer, move their mouse around and type pretty letters in Word. There ought to be further classes of the type you described. Teaching concerned users everything might be impossible, but if they could only "friend" the internet a little, then the rest they could even find on their own. For the recalcitrant, there is a lot of "web-nany" forums, where they could interact with other worried parents and exchange tips. It may just be a matter of pointing them in the right direction, perhaps in person first to gain their trust. =)

Funny, I was thinking exactly this this morning. Well, not exactly this. More like, "Hmm, I think I'd like a bagel, and gee, isn't the recent scare so like the fear of rock n' roll in the 50s, the fear of novels in the 1800s -- oh, darn, all we have have are cinnamon raisin bagels." But it was nearly the same.

Seriously, my *porn habit* is what did this. That has to be ironic on some level

And here I was thinking you guys didn't get irony...

Well said and pretty much true for me too

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