The Internet Might Not Kill Your Kids

Chris's picture

Not only might your kids survive encountering the Internet, but it might also not turn them into crack fiends, serial killers, satan-worshipping trolls, or hook them up with Albert Fish as their prom date.

Forgive the snark, but for the first time, it looks like some common sense is being injected into the whole dialogue about kids and the Internetz.  We'll see how much effect it has -- there is something undeniably comfortable about the idea of menace lurking out there.  It's useful for those in power because it gives them a plausible excuse for control, and the fear of the shadowy other gives everyone else a certain unshakeable faith in their own virture.

Anyway, here's what a study by the National School Boards Association says about the Internet's threat to the fabric of our society: 

It warns that many fears about the internet are just overblown. "School district leaders seem to believe that negative experiences with social networking are more common than students and parents report," the study reports. For example, more than half the districts think sharing personal information has been "a significant problem" in their schools — "yet only 3% of students say they've ever given out their email addresses, instant messaging screen names or other personal information to strangers."

In fact, the Association and resesearchers at Grunwald Associates LLC surveyed 1,277 students online (between the ages of 9 and 17) — along with 1,039 parents, and 250 school district leaders "who make decisions on internet policy." And the students reported big differences from the adults' concerns. Only 20% said they'd seen "inappropriate" pictures on social networking sites in the last 3 months. (And only 11% of parents concur, even for the last 6 months.) Only 18% of the students said they'd seen "inappropriate" language, and just 7% reported they'd been "cyberbullied," or asked about their personal identity on a social networking site.

"Students and parents report fewer recent or current problems, such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying and unwelcome personal encounters than school fears and policies seem to imply," the study notes....

In light of these findings, they're recommending that school districts may want to "explore ways in which they could use social networking for educational purposes" — and reconsider some of their fears. It won't be the first time educators have feared a new technology, the study warns. "Many schools initially banned or restricted Internet use, only to ease up when the educational value of the Internet became clear. The same is likely to be the case with social networking.

"Safety policies remain important, as does teaching students about online safety and responsible online expression — but student may learn these lessons better while they're actually using social networking tools."


People have started to take it for granted that the Internet will automatically draw your children into sin and depravity, and this is the basis for tomes upon tomes of legislation that effect adults as well, so I don't expect this to cause a sudden end to the feeding frenzy, it's a relief to see that one glimmer of common sense among the madness.  We can always hope it'll catch on.