Monday, December 28, 2009

O Selfless Saviors

#567; O Selfless Saviors

I bookmarked this cartoon in November, then became sidetracked by other things and never got around to the posting I had envisioned.

Since 1983, Joel Best has been tracking reports and complaints about contaminated candies given to trick-or-treaters. Best, professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, assures concerned parents that "Tainted Halloween candy is a contemporary legend, spread by word of mouth, with little to support it."

Why bring this up in December, long after costumes have been packed away and pumpkins relegated to the trash heap?

While Halloween is a once-a-year occurrence, children and teens can access the Internet daily. Alarmed by news reports of online predators, unsure of how to navigate an unfamiliar digital landscape, parents and, in many cases, school districts, turn to heavy filtering as a protective measure for students.

What do adults fear? In the Final Report: Friendship section of the Digital Youth Project, lead author danah boyd spells it out:

"The same 'stranger danger' rhetoric and 'terror talk' that limit youth from interacting with strangers in unmediated public spaces (Levine 2002; Valentine 2004) have also taken hold online. There are school assemblies dedicated to online dangers, primarily the possibility of sexual predators. Mainstream media, law enforcement, teachers, and parents reinforce the message that interacting with strangers online is risky. While the percentage of teens who have experienced unwanted sexual solicitations has declined through the years (Wolak, Mitchell, and Finkelhor 2006), the fear that youth—and especially girls—are at risk has increased (Cassell and Cramer 2007; Marwick 2008). At a deeper level, the public myths about online 'predators' do not reflect the actual realities of sexual solicitation and risky online behavior (Wolak et al. 2008). Not only do unfounded fears limit teenagers unnecessarily, they also obscure preventable problematic behavior (Valentine 2004)."

To some, the solution rests, ironically, in reliance on technology.

Enhancing Child Safety (released by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States) has this to say regarding filtering and monitoring software:

"The Task Force remains optimistic about the development of technologies to enhance protections for minors online and to support institutions and individuals involved in protecting minors, but cautions against overreliance on technology in isolation or on a single technological approach. Technology can play a helpful role, but there is no one technological solution or specific combination of technological solutions to the problem of online safety for minors. Instead, a combination of technologies, in concert with parental oversight, education, social services, law enforcement, and sound policies by social network sites and service providers may assist in addressing specific problems that minors face online. All stakeholders must continue to work in a cooperative and collaborative manner, sharing information and ideas to achieve the common goal of making the Internet as safe as possible for minors." -Final Report, Executive Summary

Rather than "paranoia-inducing hypervigilance," our children need instruction, guided practice, supervision, and open lines of communication when engaging in online activities.

"After all, children are our future," and technology is part of their future.

"Fear of corrupting the mind of the younger generation is the loftiest of cowardice." -Holbrook Jackson

Related posts:

Al Upton & Jabiz Raisdana:
A Heavy Armor (March 14, 2008)
Listen (March 20, 2008)
A Confederacy of Dunces (March 27, 2008)
Spindles (April 5, 2008)

Filtering & censorship:
A Question of Censorship (October 3, 2007)
Only Those Places (January 18, 2008)
Unsuited to Age Group (February 17, 2008)
The Loftiest of Cowardice (September 27, 2009)

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