Sunday, February 21, 2010

Web 2.0 Can Corrupt Children

Web 2.0 Can Corrupt Children, or, Part Two of a Long Rant

Note: The topic of Web 2.0 and children is a huge topic which I’ll only touch upon briefly in this post. This was originally written as part of a long rant. This will serve as part 2 of the rant series.

Modern life in America moves quickly and there are many participants in the creation and consumption of material on the Internet. The negative cultural forces that can corrupt our children are sometimes comprised of a combination of multiple companies, different business people and in the case of what I discovered that got me so angry last night, also involves private citizens. This interaction of the amateur with the professional and self-publishing on the Internet is referred to as “Web 2.0”.


Thus the Internet has been morphing into “Web 2.0”. At first, the net was comprised mainly of professional businesses and some Internet chat boards where ‘users’ chatted, and a smattering of very computer literate people who created their own websites. Later the increased use by ‘regular people’ to have their own Internet presence, first with websites and later blogs. The continued lowering of the price of digital photography and digital video recording has allowed amateur users to get into the game of self-publishing video. All this can be done without the use of editing software, but even an inexpensive video editing software and/or Photoshop Elements can allow even the beginner to polish their productions into something that might even appear professionally created! Now video sharing on YouTube is even being done by children!

Personal computers are in so many American homes. They are free to use at public libraries and many schools today use computers. Elementary school aged kids often have their own cell phones and some even have their own iPhones or Blackberry’s with full Internet access. These kids are self-publishing to My Space, Facebook, on blogs, on Twitter and to YouTube, where kids can even have their very own video channel and be an instant ‘star’.

We cannot always hold just one party accountable for a situation such as “corrupting our children”, because on the Internet many voices intermingle and one thing leads to another. Inexpensive technology and free websites such as YouTube.com allow amateurs and even children to self-publish content (some of which is illegal or breaks copyright law; still these laws cannot protect our children). Today schools and teachers are asking how they can use Web 2.0 in their classrooms as something good and educational. What got me so upset is a story of Web 2.0 gone bad.

Many parents of young children, from various backgrounds and from different religious persuasions try hard to protect their children from the negative influence of American culture and the media, chiefly by limiting their exposure to certain entertainment products such as movies, TV shows, and music. Many parents also limit access to the Internet. My story is a good example of how hard it is to protect a child, to healthily shelter them, in our fast-paced society with its information-saturated Internet and Web 2.0.

The car dealers and Sirius radio are a part of this intermingling of media and this issue too! In 2008 when our family purchased a new minivan we swore we’d not buy one with televisions. My husband and I were holding out, that a car ride should just be a car ride, every minute of the day, a child need not be tethered to staring at a video screen nor should they feel they have a right to be constantly entertained.

However our resistance was futile. The televisions were in nearly every minivan made by Chrysler (the maker of the minivan we had been using for eight years and loved and we’d wanted to buy another of the same model). To order a new minivan without TVs would have required us to pay $500 more, and wait for shipment. So we got the cheaper minivan with the televisions and set limits on its use. It was not only wired to play DVDs but we were given a year of free television which wound up being only: Disney, Nick, and Cartoon Network. That year of free service my husband and I did limit the use of the video system to use mostly DVDs for very long trips (200 miles or longer was our rule for when they could watch the minivan’s TV). Even at home I banned or limited viewing of those channels as I felt some of the content was offensive and some was just plain stupid.

Our culture creates media content, some of which is obscene or inappropriate for children and then it tells parents to set limits, turn off the TV and so forth. “If you don’t like it, shut it off!” is what they say. That works up to a certain point as I’ll illustrate. I’ve been the parent-cop since the day my first was born but honestly a parent cannot appropriately shelter their child from everything, between Web 2.0, billboards on the side of the road, TV ads, print ads, and even typical displays in the mall. Visits to fast food restaurants or even just driving by them, market and promote children’s movies and TV shows directly to our children. I recall a ten foot high Shrek inflated on top of a Burger King once, and my kids immediately realized the sequel must have been released and asked to go see it.

When we purchased the new minivan, we were surprised to learn that we had a free subscription to Sirius XM satellite radio in the minivan for a year. We didn’t know how we’d all come to love Sirius; one benefit being that its music stations are commercial-free and its wide variety of music playing on niche-stations (50s music, older country, new country, even 1930s and 1940s radio shows!) . I have enjoyed listening to the ‘80s on 8’ station which replays pop music from 1980-1989. It’s like a flashback in time for me. Sometimes I listen to the 80s music while the kids are in the car. I’ve realized two things. One is that some songs I thought were innocent when I was a teenager and in my young 20s were actually more sexual than I recall, due to heavy innuendo. How did I not catch what the code word ‘rock’ meant back when I was younger? (I’m not sure if I recognized this innuendo when back then, if I did, I’d forgotten about it.) This has been safe so far for my kids, as they don’t get the innuendo.

Anyway, the 80s music is nothing like the hip hop songs of today which are filled with profanity, denigrate women and some have clear sexual lyrics. In just twenty years the music industry has really changed and the adult lyrics are being heard by children whose parents listen to pop radio. Our family has avoided hip hop by listening first to children’s music on CDs (Raffi, Tom Chapin, and John McCutcheon) and then later, country music (although this has gotten racier in the last year or two). My kids have come to love certain songs from the 80s, usually the sillier lyric, upbeat tempo pop songs.

I can’t shelter my kids entirely. Recently while in the car of friends and neighbors (while doing social things together) my children have been exposed to current pop music, especially the Black Eyed Peas, some songs are hip hop with catchy pop tunes. I’m not too happy that my kids are being exposed to hip hop music in other adult’s cars but maybe some of them would be equally offended by some news talk radio, such as Fox News, that plays in my car sometimes?

For a long time I did not let my children on the Internet and YouTube due to the difficulty in keeping them from viewing pornography and other mature content. (Parental blocking software that I purchased has failed as it slowed down my computer to a snail’s pace.) I’ve placed some filters such as turning on the parental controls on Google.com. Since the fall of 2009 the slope has been getting slippery, with my oldest being 12 years old. Nearly all his friends are on the Internet and many are freely allowed to browse any site they wish.

Fellow parents of the Boy Scouts in my son’s Troop have said that by ten years old, most of their boys had seen porn and keeping porn, sexual terms and sexual information from kids today is a futile effort. “It is everywhere” and “all kids are on the Internet” they told me. Kids talk to each other and tell each other things and then they sometimes go online together and look at sites with each other. They tell each other about sites they have seen on the Internet and share funny videos they like to watch on YouTube.

Kids don’t always learn things from the Internet and movies. Kids talk to each other. Even with the healthy level of sheltering I think I’ve been doing, my homeschooled kids are not immune. Just two weeks ago my nine year old brought up the topic of blow jobs (that’s the term he used) with me in front of his twelve year old brother. I found out that a ten year old homeschooled boy had educated my son all about the term and its (correct) meaning while he was at a drop off academic class for homeschooled kids. Lovely. I can’t get too upset about this as the fact is that kids to talk and share information. If my kids were in school they’d have probably learned about this while on the school bus or while at school.

The fact is that Hollywood does introduce things to our children as does the music industry. Additionally, Web 2.0 sometimes corrupts our kids. In my next post I’ll share the story that has me so angry today.

3 comments:

Allison http://GirlReturnsHome.com said...

Wow! Awesome post and I cant wait to read the rest. This is such a subject that I have opinions about and have struggled with. We have 4 children. The oldest is 12. We homeschool too. I will tell you how we are dealing with this though it is hard and I sometimes 2nd guess myself, but deep down I believe we are doing ok.

My best friend with 8 children believes the same way we do so it has helped to encourage each other in this area. The biggest thing we are doing is not being involved in outside activities on a regular basis (weekly/monthly) that include other children from backgrounds that we do not know, in situations where we as parents are not present. That means our children will not be in a youth group at church. We do not do scouts. We do not do dance. Etc. Etc. If our child has a gift in an area from God, we believe it will still be there as they get older and will be able to be used. And they can develop it at home anyway.

We have a larger group of 5 families that we get with weekly at a kids museum, but all moms are always there too. We meet together as families too once or twice a month. With play times interspersed with the friends of like mind, we get lots of social time.

Reading about Kevin Swanson's growing up years (homeschool dad of 5 or 6, has a website, national speaker, etc - he was homeschooled as a child with missionary parents who completely sheltered them, but went to college at 18 and was and is an incredible leader) has helped me remember we are not sheltering them too much. It is necessary for them to be strong when we do let them spread their wings.

Im certainly not saying you are doing ANYTHING wrong! I am totally with you on this subject. Im just saying these are the hard realizations we have had lately. I still wonder sometimes if my children are missing out on things, but after reading this and just seeing everything I see every day, I think not.

We got rid of our TV cable in 2001. We have tv's but just rent movies. We have internet with controls and it worries me. We just discussed with our 12 yr old the dangers and she is aware, but it is still risky. I guess prayer and support for each by like minded friends is the best answer. God Bless you for writing this. It is awesome! Sorry so long, but this gets me going :)

Crimson Wife said...

I totally sympathize! Even with no tv and no internet it's still hard to shelter kids. We used to take my DH to work every day in San Francisco and you would not believe how risque many of the ads were around town. I put in several complaints to Muni about inappropriate ads on the buses. The worst was a dating service targeting homosexuals that featured 2 semi-nude men embracing. Even if it had been a heterosexual couple it still would've crossed the line IMO.

whiteshark0121 said...

One effective way of monitoring our kids internet activity is installing a parental control software to block all unwanted sites. There are a lot of free softwares available out there and one of them can be found on TUKI (The Ultimate Kids' Internet).