My subject line this morning is a nod to what parents worried about when I was in junior high school — a goofy youth culture symbolized by a gap-toothed kid, who somehow grew up to be David Letterman:
Fast-forward to this century. Mad and I both survived to see another generation’s culture, though only one of us grew up and I’m not too sure about that, even. 🙂
I am the parent of teens, unschooling teens, who grew up with unlimited access to computer screens and spend time online everyday. (Me and Mad Magazine do, too.) So what, me worry?
Well, yeah, I’ve had my share of anxieties and then some. . .
Which is goofier, a mom who worries about the wrong things in youth culture, or who doesn’t worry about the right things? Or do they tend to go together, feed into each other so that the real problem is an all-round lack of judgment, the logic of failure?
Here’s NYT tech columnist David Pogue’s analysis (of course he could be setting you up or I might be; can you trust my words or his, or the documentary he recommends, if you’re reading this online??)
. . .if you live in terror of what the Internet will do to your children, I encourage you to watch this excellent hour-long PBS “Frontline” documentary.
. . .It’s free, and it’s online in its entirety. The show surveys the current kids-online situation—thoroughly, open-mindedly and frankly.
Fearmongers often cite the statistic, from a 2005 study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center, that 1 in 7 children have received sexual propositions while online. But David Finkelhor, author of that report, notes that . . .”Considerable numbers of them are undoubtedly coming from other kids, or just people who are acting weird online,” he says.
As my own children approach middle school, my own fears align with the documentary’s findings in another way: that cyber-bullying is a far more realistic threat. Kids online experiment with different personas, and can be a lot nastier in the anonymous atmosphere of the Internet than they would ever be in person (just like grown-ups). And their mockery can be far more painful when it’s public, permanent and written than if they were just muttered in passing in the hallway.
In any case, watch the show. You’ll learn that some fears are overplayed, others are underplayed, and above all, that the Internet plays a huge part in adolescence now. Pining for simpler times is a waste of time; like it or not, this particular genie is out of the bottle.