Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

Fear and Control Online

Wes Fryer posted about a report in the February-March 2008 issue of American Psychologist titled “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment.” Wes and LiveScience’s “Bad Science Columnist writer, Benjamin Radford, outline the myths of the report that says in its opening paragraph, “The publicity about online ‘predators’ who prey on naive children using trickery and violence is largely inaccurate.” Later, the authors write “The purpose of this article is to provide an accurate, research-based description of the characteristics and prevalence of this high-profile social problem; make recommendations for effective responses; indicate needs for future research; and give professionals basic resources to help manage issues that arise in practice and other contexts.”

Say what? A rational, research-based, purposeful approach to a problem? What will the social activists on NBC and in Washington, DC say? What will all the school Internet filter managers say? What about CIPA?! What shall we do?!

Here are my suggestions –lingua en buccae,

  1. Ignore the research and the professionals in the field and make decisions based on hysteria and sensationalized media reports.
  2. Don’t educate yourself by reading Internet Safety and Social Networking for Parents or Safe Digital Social Networking. They’re posted on wikis and everyone knows those are unreliable. In fact, did you know wikis lure our children to their intellectual demise and are completely unreliable? People who want to corrupt our children use, ugh, wikis…and blogs and social networking sites and all of those newfangled tools of destruction.
  3. Let your preconceptions make your decisions.
  4. Avoid tough topics and conversations about the nature and sources of the problem. They may make you and others uncomfortable.
  5. Scare people by telling them only part of the truth. It’s best just to tell people only about the bad stuff that’s out there -so they can know.
  6. Fool yourself into believing that you can monitor and restrict all your kids’ online interactions. Who uses text messaging anyway?
  7. Blame the schools.
  8. Underestimate others and overestimate yourself. After all it worked for Great Britain and the colonists, the church and Martin Luther, Hitler and the British, South African people and the apartheid-South African government. 

Social networking isn’t just about the high profile online sites, it’s about the millions of blogs like this one. In fact, if you’re here and you don’t think you’re a social networker, think again. Do all of us need to be aware of the risks? Absolutely. However, I’m still waiting for the media frenzy and social activism for the greatest risk of all to our kids, one we actually expect most of our kids to participate in. I shudder to think of the rights violations arguments and lawsuits that would happen if we took the same fear and control approach.

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March 15, 2008 - Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Love the post. I recently had an enlightening experience. I discovered Jott which is free and cool. I had a eureka moment and realized how easy it would be for my teachers to use Jott to notify their students of homework assignments. No more writing it down no more counselors hounding teachers for late homework assignments for kids. I e-mailed all my teachers about the coolness of Jott and how easy it would be to help them with the homework notification dilemma only to find out that my school blocks Jott. Here I am as the principal encouraging my teachers to use social networking tools and my own system blocks it. Needless to say we won’t be blocking it anymore. Fun fun!

    Comment by comtrading | March 16, 2008 | Reply


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