Ask Parry - Is the Internet a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?
All I hear on the television and in magazine and newspapers is that the Internet is dangerous for kids. Then you say it’s important for all children to use. Which is it, dangerous or important for children?
A Confused Parent
Dear Confused Parent,
It’s important to your children, but parts and certain practices can be dangerous to children, and even adults sometimes. But there are ways to limit the risks, and the benefits far outweigh any risks.
Children hurt each other more often than adults hurt children. Cyberbullying, hacking and posing as each other can hurt and starts as early as 2nd and 3rd grade. They can hurt themselves too. They post personal information, may take and share nude or sexually provocative images and post pictures of them drinking or acting out. Colleges, coaches and local police are very interested in what your children post online.
Bad guys are online too. Think of the Internet as a telephone, not as a television. It’s the strangers your children talk to, those who reach out to your children, that are the real dangers (not the content).
What rules would you set if strangers were allowed to call your home and ask to talk to your children? Just apply that to cyberspace. If they met someone on a bus, would they immediately give their name, address, telephone number, picture, school, etc? I hope not. They can talk about the weather, an upcoming holiday, sports, news…innocent topics. It’s the same online.
They can connect with family and distant friends, learn about interesting things, do homework and give back to charities and causes online. The Internet is a tool. It is not dangerous or safe. The use of this tool determines its risks.
Learn from the news broadcasts. They will teach you how to limit the risks. But remember the greatest risk our children face in connection with the Internet is being deprived access. We have common sense, tech tools and great resources for everything else.
A few sites are terrific. Visit www.surfswellisland.com, Disney’s Internet safety site. (I helped them build it.) Check out the Girl Scouts cybersafety education program, LMK.GirlScouts.org I built, and MTV’s aThinLine.org resource on digital abuse. You can find lots of my information from my book at wiredkids.org and at wiredsafety.org, and on my blog.
Now that I have, hopefully, addressed your question, I need to point out one important thing. Good or bad, it’s here to stay. Our children need Internet skills for their education, careers and future. So, stop worrying and start getting connected. Your kids will show you how. :)
Good luck, and enjoy cyberspace!