I was followed on Twitter one day by @WiredMoms and became interested in what I increasingly saw as the spreading of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) about kids and the Internet, and the perspective that the Internet introduced some whole new terrible formless Danger to modern children, causing them magically to do things that they had never done before, and harboring untold numbers of predators (along with the great devils Pornography and Anonymous Communication) determined to systematically destroy them. I was disturbed by themes that suggested the answer was to banish technology, confiscate and control all tools that might allow your child to access the Dangerous Internet (as if they weren’t completely capable of finding access to things you didn’t want them to access, as if making things Forbidden didn’t make them even more tempting) unless you were right there with Internet Kneepads to protect them.
Now, I don’t have kids, but some day I will, and like all of us I’ve certainly been a kid. But the Internet and Security, these things I DO know well, both personally and professionally, and it is from the perspective that I have a lot to say in response to this. After awhile I started writing down some of my reactions to the fearmongering articles. Upon noticing that I had paragraph after paragraph to share on these items, I’ve decided to turn my notes into my first topic on this blog. I hope my series can help dispel some of the FUD about the Internet, and help focus those concerned on real problems and real solutions. Please feel free to comment and/or ask questions, which will help me tune my level of detail and presentation.
Today’s article regards teens beating each other up and putting it on youtube. (I’m not going to summarize these articles; please click through and read them on your own.)
Is it indeed, as Aftab claims, just that these children are simply looking for their 15MB of fame? Is the Internet suddenly motivating kids to do things that kids haven’t been doing for ages? The fact of the matter is, teens AND adults have been fighting since before they were recognizable as humans (or, if you don’t believe in evolution, you’ve seen West Side Story, right?). The gang-up is much more common than the even battle, and probably conferred reproductive advantage on the individuals following the tactic, thus encouraging it to persist, both as a biological drive and a social meme. The taping and the fame is NOT why these beatings are happening, that is simply ridiculous.
I happen to be pleased that in modern days these violent crimes are photographed and taped for an increasingly wide audience, because it makes it much easier to catch everyone involved than when it’s just one person’s word against another. We’re actually more capable of addressing these issues and serving justice upon them now. If there’s any fear to be generated to kids about the Internet here, it should be the fear of getting most thoroughly caught and punished!
What of the problem of the violence? When I was a kid, when a kid was getting bullied, their parents enrolled them in self defense, and bought them mace. If there was an actual life-threatening danger, the cops were brought in. Since moving to large societies, we have developed all sorts of tournaments, competitions of mind and body and tactics in an official capacity, with fame AND prize money to the victor. It is the job of parents to redirect those violent and competitive impulses, which are completely natural, to such arenas. It is the job of parents to empower their children, to help them overcome fear and adversity, not to save them from it. Teenagers need to differentiate themselves from their parents, to have opportunities and guidance for developing their forebrain which is at this time going through a violent pruning and restructuring. The do not need to be pulled back under the protective apron, they need to learn independent problem-solving, coping, and life skills. Pulling your kid out of school because they’ve been bullied is not giving them coping skills for later in life when they’re bullied again, it’s teaching them to run and hide and live in fear, and it’s teaching them to be a victim.