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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dangers for Children On The Web

One cannot open a website without learning something (Analogy from opening a book)

Millions upon millions  of websites, touching every human topic under the sun. Who could have ever imagined this day would come, the Google day, and all the other search engines. If you are, like me, over the age of 50, you surely remember your parents' warnings about books and magazines during the 1960's, 1970', and 1980's. "I don't want to catch you with dirty magazines," said Mom, and naturally we immediately investigated the matter with our peers at school. There was always some kid with a copy of Playboy, Penthouse, or such girlie magazine. Pre-teens and teens would find ingenious ways to avoid mother's wrath or father's interest, but if they were discovered they swore that the fault lay with some rich schoolmate who could afford the $4 or $5 to buy that "trash." Dad would often confiscate the graphic evidence under the guise of avoiding the corruption of young minds.

Parental Control
Today's Internet fare would make a Playboy Bunny blush with shame, thus the imperious need for parents to be very careful about what their kids are watching at 3 o'clock in the morning when the elders are fast asleep. There are several software makers who offer good products to protect children from adult sites: Net Nanny, CYBERsitter, Safe Eyes, and PureSight PC are some of the best. They concentrate mainly on pornography and social sites predators who engage kids in chats pretending to be their peers. But the software doesn't cover every possible danger.

Modern children can give us, parents, lessons in electronics, computer software, and even hacking. Despite all the firewalls and protective software in our high school servers, some students still are caught every month accessing adult sites. How they do it is a complete mystery; I even asked one of my kids to explain how he was able to disable or bypass all the school filters on our computers and he just looked at me mockingly as if to say, you are too old to understand.

Dangerous Ideas
Pornography is probably not the greatest danger to our children's minds. The real danger lies in chats, emails, and subversive websites that fill our kids' brains with perilous and provocative suggestions. If you try hard enough, you can even find a detailed description on the Internet on how to make explosives with kitchen ingredients. Violence, weapons, and propaganda against the family, against American Society and Government, against some religions, and even against schools can affect juvenile minds which can easily be convinced that the system is out to destroy them. We have unfortunately too many examples of teens taking a weapon and using it against teachers, cops, and even against other teens.

Racism, bullying, incitements to violence, invitations to meet away from parents' eyes, phony financial offers to get even, sexual innuendos, and falsehoods regarding the American government, are all verbal weapons that can turn a teen against his or her own kind. Witness what happened to some kids born  in the US with parents from Yemen; they were convinced to escape and become jihadists. Brainwash is not a new concept of course; it became popular when some prisoners of war in Korea related their experiences in Chinese concentration camps. In modern times, the Internet can play the same role if we are not careful. Yes, the Web can offer wonderful opportunities to learn about magical new worlds and ancient civilizations. But just like a knife, it can be used for good purposes or for evil ones.

False or True
By all means show your kids how to take advantage of this new tool; they will need to learn how to apply its infinite resources to build a better world, to connect with friends in far places, to visit the world's wonders without moving from their office chair, to learn new languages, to do the homework, to research all that was published about their favorite area of science, and to see grandpa on his birthday even though he lives in Canada and they in LA. But the one rule you must never forget is to doubt everything you see or hear on the web; there are many lies and falsehoods available, even on Wikipedia, that look convincing. Do your homework and make sure your corroborate the information...then convince your kids to do the same.

Anecdote: A friend who has a 13 year-old daughter asked me if she should buy her a smart phone, which she had done with the older brother. I said no, no way; you cannot control smart phones the way you can control a computer and a young teen girl is facing more dangers than her brother. So my friend bought her kid a regular phone, you know, the kind that allows one to call people!!


jcdonaldson said...

As the father of a 4 year old daughter I greatly appreciate the warning you share in this post. Strong words with stronger meaning (if they are heard). Keep writing the "STUFF" that matters.

Jacques Sprenger said...

Thank you, jc, raising a daughter is a gift from heaven but it's also a constant supervising. Never ever let go of her even for one second when you are shopping. It happened to my granddaughter but fortunately we found her with good people. I strongly recommend a "leash", a special elastic belt that allow you to keep a toddler close.

Sandra McLeod Humphrey said...

Good post! I can not even begin to believe the differences between what our kids faced versus what our grandkids are having to deal with. The current generation of young people may be technologically sophisticated but they just don't have the emotional maturity to deal with the barrage of internet information and "opportunities" they encounter every day. Like your blog and I'll be back!

Jacques Sprenger said...

Sandra, I appreciate your comment as it tells me that perhaps modern parents are not fully aware of all the dangers of the web.