"What kind of a horse is that? I've never seen a horse like that before!" she exclaims. To which the cabbie replies, "No, and never will again, I fancy. There's only one of him, and he's it. He's the Horse of a Different Color you've heard tell about."
-Dorothy, while touring Oz
A week ago, Andy Carvin commented on the U.S. Senate committee hearing regarding children’s online safety. Rather than just proposing stricter filtering regulations, chairperson Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) spoke in favor of "a broad-based strategy that doesn’t rely solely on technology to protect kids".
Dr. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, presented research findings that suggest teenagers in particular put themselves at risk, not by sharing personal information online, blogging or joining a social network, but by engaging in explicit conversations and frequenting sex chat rooms.
Here we have "a horse of a different color", something significantly different from what is expected. The government required that filters be put in place to block access to certain types of internet sites, like Facebook and myspace, thought to present a clear danger to young users. But it appears that what is necessary is intensive education in the nature and tactics of sexual predators.
Technology provides the tools. Like any tools, they can be used for good or ill. It's education that will make the difference, present students with guidelines and caveats for online interaction.
We didn't anticipate this research finding; but now that we know what type of instruction our children and young adults need to protect themselves in a digital world, it's our job to see that they get it.
"Because we cannot control all that our children see, hear, and play, it is tempting to throw up our hands and do nothing. Although we cannot do everything, we can do something, and this is to talk with our children and teenagers about unexpected encounters with inappropriate violence, sexuality, and profanity."
-David Elkind (20th century), U.S. child psychologist and author. Ties That Stress