Youth and the Internet—no cause for alarm

[This is a response to Prof. Macek’s third blog prompt.]

Well, my online ethnography is done, my math assignment is turned in, and another week of classes is over. I guess it’s about time I got back to some media blogging. :)

A good portion of our class time and assignment reading for the past week has touched on the many issues surrounding kids and the new media, particularly the Internet. While the increasing pervasiveness of fast net connections in the home and on mobile devices brings with it many clear benefits to American society, some worry that this new, “born to be wired” generation are beginning to suffer the consequences of constant exposure to online content. Privacy watchdogs, parent groups, and censorship advocates have expressed and continue to express concern that about the content that young people can easily access on the Internet.

As discussed at length by Kathryn Montgomery in her book Generation Digital, lobbying efforts by these groups have met with some success, with Congress successfully passing legislation prohibiting many forms of online marketing and data collection targeted at young child. On the other hand, efforts by conservative activists to introduce a “V-chip for the Internet” to protect kids from online pornography and other inappropriate content have been largely fruitless, facing seemingly insurmountable legal and technical hurdles.

Still, though people often claim that the Internet is making American youth immoral, antisocial, and stupid, all the evidence I’ve seen seems to indicate that exposure to online content has a net positive effect on children and teens. The Internet isn’t perfect, and it certainly poses risks to impressionable children, tweens, and teens; however, I think proper parental involvement in children’s lives can more than make up for any harm which access to online resources can cause to children. If parents are so worried about their kids’ safety, privacy, and morality, I think the responsibility should fall on the parents directly—not on the government or the various activist groups—to properly educate their children about the risks they might have online.

About Jon

Christian, dude, geek, student, hacker, weirdo, King of Awesomeness
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