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On defining the Safety Net

By Richard Tonkin
Created 10/05/2010 - 23:33

 I guess that growing up in a pub has been great training for a young girl before she's headed out into the Facebook world.  From a position of cautious social detachment she's interacted with lots of different kinds of people, and is far better equipped to "suss people out"  than most girls her own age.

Even so, she learned a lot talking to people from my own page, and now that she has her own I keep (with her permission) a very close eye over her shoulder.  I'm quite aware, though, that  unless I enforce an environment  in which she's under direct supervision I'm going to have to trust her judgement (and my training) on how she approaches the massive amount of information she can access, and how to avoid the sordid creepiness that (as in all forms of society) exists at its edges.  So far she's doing great!

You get a feeling, talking to folks in teens and early twenties, that they're evolving their own etiquettes and structures with which to deal with this nascent universe that they've grown up in.  A year ago it was great to see a photo of yourself online behaving stupidly while pissed at last Saturday's party.  Nowadays people would prefer, it seems, to have the right to give permisssion as to how others present them to the cyberworld.  Similarly, where it used to be thrilling to continue, in non-internet reality, conversations that were initiated on the internet, now a few kids are beginning to get the heebie-jeebies about how much personal information others know about them.

Watching ABC-TV's Q & A discussion on the topic tonight, I began to think that the topic of an internet filter has possibly been looked at from the wrong end.  Why not make net activity a subject that kids learn from primary school onwards?    Where are, for example, the WEA courses teaching parents how to teach the net to their kids?  

 I guess it comes down to what a government-mandated internet filter is intended to achieve.  It reminds me a little of how the Port Arthur murders ultimately caused everyone but the murderers to surrender their weapons.

I'd prefer we spent more energy giving our kids what they need  to deal with a kind of reality that they will hopefully inherit and reinterpret in a way we'd never be capable of.  I have a feeling that they'll be the ones who find a way to eradicate the crap that we're trying to hide from them.  

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