WA’s Attorney General wants to give parents legal rights over their children’s Facebook pages.
Miranda Devine, in her typically careful way with words, describes social media as “barbarism, unleashing the worst elements of human nature, with no restraints” and quotes a former highschool teacher as saying: “We know one per cent of the community are sociopaths. Unfortunately online we see more of them. They’re incredibly vocal, and the internet is their space.”
That’s right, the internet is for
Recently, my daughter who is 11, got a google+ invite, filled out the information, and when the child entered her birth date, Google took her account access away, including all access to her gmail. She is distraught, as are we – this is pretty crippling to both her homeschooling and her social and family connections […]
When a friend posted a link to this on Google+, discussion turned immediately to whether or not kids should even have email accounts at all, on the grounds that they are too young, and need to be protected from the dangers of the internet.
In short: life in the global village is nasty and brutish.
Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot.
– Marshall McLuhan
In response to Paul Howes’ discovery that mean people exist and use social media technology to say mean stuff Chas Licciardello wrote last year: “The web has been around for around 20 years now, but sometimes it seems people have been bemoaning anonymous internet trolls for the last 20,000.”
The internet didn’t cause bullying, or sexual abuse, or fraud. It didn’t invent the desire to talk about cats, or what one had for breakfast. While it isn’t as simple as “guns don’t kill people” – the internet has certainly changed society – nor has it created an entirely new one out of thin air. McLuhan would say that through Facebook and Twitter we have extended ourselves further, making time and space increasingly irrelevant to our ability to communicate with other people. The grapevine has become louder, faster, bigger and more permanent than before, and it is certainly worth our time figuring out both what we can and what we should do about that.
Giving parents the legal right to access their child’s Facebook account does not fit into either category. It would be almost impossible to implement, and even if they figured out a way, any parent who was relying on the law to get them access to their child’s account would probably soon find their child no longer there. Focussing on how parents can control their child’s social media experience misses the point as badly as every cranky adult who tried to ban dancing in an 80s film. We’re basically talking about social media chaperones.
We teach children to participate in the world by slowly letting them be a part of it. We begin by bringing them with us to our parties, then we let them attend their friends’ parties – we stay with them sometimes, leave them with other parents at other times. Slowly they reach the stage where they have their own parties and parents must simply trust that they’ve taught them well enough.
Internet bullying is an important and broad subject, and we should be careful not to conflate incidents such as tragic suicides with simply upsetting faceless men. Anonymity, pseudonymity, bitchiness, righteous anger, activism, stoushing, trolling, pile-ons, criticism, sarcasm, humour, mockery, deindividuation. Anyone who thinks these things were created by the internet, as opposed to being amplified by it, isn’t just ignorant of internet technology but of life in general.
This ridiculous man illustrates the point nicely. He uses a story in which he refuses to socialise with the parents at his school as proof that abstinence works, and I guess he figures it’s as convincing to rational people as it is to him. Except what he’s actually saying is that it’s better to avoid interacting with humans than to risk bad things happening to you.
As people in the midst of such massive changes, it’s often difficult to accurately describe what’s happening and what it means for society. Social media has brought us anonymous trolls and the ability speak truth to power. It makes it easier to bully people and easier to reach them and let them know they aren’t alone. Television, email, sms, social media, whatever, it’s all the real world now. Instead of trying to keep kids out of it for as long as possible, let’s work on giving them the skills to live in it.