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Our local rag, the Hartford Courant (oldest continuously published newspaper in the nation, but far from the best), had two big pieces today on MySpace.com, presently the subject of a teapot-based tempest among parents, schools administrators, and the media. I won't describe the flap in detail: we all know what people do on blogs. Some of it is rated G, some goes right up to X. Some people who frequent these sites are trolls, some are worse. MySpace.com has over 35,000,000 users, and there have been a dozen or so problems reported in the news since summer. The fact that these incidents have befallen white girls from families high enough up on the economic ladder for them to have their own PCs and broadband has not escaped the notice of my internal media cynic, but I digress.

In all of this panic-stricken reporting – complete with earnest interviews with serious doom-saying police men – I have not seen any reporter ask what to me is a very basic question. "Why are parents allowing pre-teens and young teens unrestricted access to the Internet?" I mean, to quote from a reader of this journal in one of her recent rants on pithed parents "What. The. Fuck."

So, now I'm getting requests from the schools to add MySpace.com to our content filter's no-no list, because these they have seen the news coverage and are now freaking out. It makes me want to find a bell tower and cry out to all the Boomer parents in the land "they're your fucking children! Take some initiative and parent for once in your lives!" But, alas, instead of sparking a revolution in conscientious parenting it would probably only earn me a hard take-down by the local SWAT team.

And that's where I'm gonna stop. Depending on who you are, anything else would either be preaching to the choir or would fall on deaf ears.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 6th, 2006 12:30 am (UTC)
Whereas I agree that it wouldn't kill parents to do some parenting, I actually kinda agree with schools putting *all* of the "networking" sites on their no-no list, and especially myspace.com. After my run-in with the bandwidth hogs on that site, I went rummaging through there and, damn, it's one of the examples of the worst the 'net can offer. The fact that they aim at the 12 - 18 demographic probably doesn't help.

At home, the parents should be keeping an eye on where their kids go on the 'net, but who's going to stand over their shoulders in the library?

Sure, sure, it's the thin end of the wedge to go from "block stupid, pointless little websites at the school library because they waste kids time and can't possibly be getting tapped for research purposes" to "And while we're at it, let's pull these books off the library shelf that we don't approve of," but I rather hope that librarians can/will point out the difference between letting kids read Huckleberry Finn and talking to potential pedophiles during study hall.


And, okay, I have a probably-irrational dislike of myspace, I've gotta admit that.
Feb. 6th, 2006 01:31 am (UTC)
I read this post, and it instantly occurred to me that I should write a followup, suggesting that he write a script to automatically look for his students blog URLs, and block access to them automatically as they are detected.

The difference is that I would be entirely sarcastic, saying that. You sound like you're at least partly serious.

"Who's going to stand over their shoulders at the library?"

Why should anyone? Why shouldn't children be raised to act appropriately - and if they aren't, whose fault is that but the parents?
Feb. 6th, 2006 02:11 am (UTC)
Why should anyone?

I agree with you. No-one can, or should. The internet pixies stole my nuance. Damn them!
Feb. 6th, 2006 02:26 am (UTC)
That's the core of what I was driving at – Mom and Dad need to be engaged and doing all of that nasty parenting stuff (starting with teaching the meaning of "no").

...We can crank up the filter levels until practically everything is blocked, and yet a student with a will to trespass will find a way to do it. So, IMO, it comes down to what did your parents teach you before you walked through the school door (or closed yourself in your room)?

I'm not mad at MySpace – they're actually trying to run a safe service (although its an exercise in bailing against the tide) – I'm mad at parents who abdicate their responsability and but still want their precious offspring protected from everything. Grrr.

OK, I'm mad at John McCain too, for making filtering my job through his pernicious little Childrens Internet Protection Act.
Feb. 6th, 2006 02:32 am (UTC)
As an aside, I am becoming more and more of the opinion that the only way the Internet should be accessible in the classroom is via a "white list" defined by the teacher. Teacher says that today you can to to NationalGeographic.org and Smithsonian.org and that's it. No MySpace, no BlackPlanet, no ESPN, no Quizilla.

But, you know, I'm a grumpy old restrictivist who was actually told by his parents and gran parents that chilren are meant to be seen and not heard and doesn't think that that's all that far off-base. (Before anyone jumps on me with both boots, I'll plead with britgeekgrrl: there's nuance here that almost certainly isn't coming through!)
Feb. 6th, 2006 02:54 am (UTC)
I'm an IT dork like you, but my first wife was a librarian (and we were married in a library, by the methodist minister friend-of-the-family who just also happened to be the Dean of the University of Michigan school of Library Science, in the company of three other librarians including my aunt) so I'm pretty familiar with the nightmare of stupid that is mandatory intarweb filtering. And apart from the librarian perception that filtering is not just a counterproductive restriction on the flow of information, I know from a practical standpoint that a smart kid will always find a way to defeat your filters. So the saving grace for these idiotic filter laws is that the kids will always find a way to defeat them anyways. Of course, that still punishes the kids who aren't geeks, but maybe their geek friends will help 'em out.

I say this with no nuance. Filters are stupid, but that's okay, because they don't work. Or they don't work, but that's okay, because they're stupid. It's the perfect balance of ineffectiveness and witlessness. And the only people who suffer because of them are the ones that aren't bright enough to figure out how to defeat them, but that's okay, really: keep on punishing the stupid, because if they got smarter, I wouldn't be able to make fun of them.
Feb. 6th, 2006 04:01 am (UTC)
AMEN, brother. Sure you're not surprised where I came down on this.


Knee-jerk reactions are ALWAYS easier than parenting, 'don'tcha know?!?

It really frightens me how many people see the answer to all this as restricting the rights of the many instead of simply doing their job: PARENTING. For me, it all boils down to lazy parenting. Stupid bastards.

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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