The Internet Is Not Disneyland; People Should Stop Demanding It Become Disneyland

from the bad-ideas dept

Disneyland can be a fun experience for kids (and potentially a frustrating one for parents), but it’s a very controlled environment in which everything is set up to bend over backwards to be welcoming to children. And that’s great for what it is, but the world would kinda suck if everything was Disneyland. I mean, some countries have tried that, and it’s… not great, especially if you believe in basic freedoms.

Here’s the thing: Disneyland’s limits are great for a place to visit occasionally. As a vacation. But it’s not the real world. And we shouldn’t be seeking to remake the real world into Disneyland. And I think it’s especially true that most parents wouldn’t want to raise their kids in Disneyland and then send them out into the real world upon turning 18, and assuming they’ll be fully equipped to deal with the real world.

Yet that’s exactly what some busybody politicians (with support of the media) have been trying to do. They want to pass new laws that effectively demand that the internet act like Disneyland. Everything must be safe for kids. That means much greater surveillance and much less freedom… but “safe for kids.”

Except it’s not. Disneyland is fantasyland. It’s not real life. And we don’t train kids how to be thoughtful participants in society if we raise them in Disneyland.

I had a discussion recently about these bills things like California’s Age Appropriate Design Code or Congress’s Kids Online Safety Act where there are legitimate concerns about kids being safe online, but it seems like we ought to think about the digital world the same way we think about the real world. Parents have a role not just in limiting where kids can go when they’re young, but also giving kids the tools, as they grow, to handle various situations.

Sometimes when I talk about this people think I’m suggesting that parents should hover like a helicopter over their children when they’re online, or spy on everything they do online, but that’s not the answer either. That’s normalizing surveillance, and teaching kids that you don’t trust them. Instead, parents (and school teachers) can help kids learn how to use the internet appropriately at their age. That’s giving them guidance on where is safe, but also teaching them how they might sometimes come across unsafe areas online, with content that is not meant for them, and teaching them how to deal with it appropriately.

We do this already in the outside world, in which we try to teach children how to handle various situations. When you should be careful around strangers; when you should seek help from trustworthy adults. And, of course, when it’s appropriate and when it’s not appropriate for kids to be somewhere with or without supervision. That’s called being a parent.

What we don’t do is insist that we need to turn every shopping center into Disneyland. We rely on parents to teach kids how to deal with the real world at an age when they, the parents, decide what’s appropriate.

We can (and should) do this with the internet as well. Let kids know that not everything online is appropriate for them, and teach them how to alert parents or other trusted adults if things are clearly not right.

Nothing is perfect, obviously, and everyone can point to this or that horror story, but on the whole this system has worked well in the outside world, and it can and should work well on the internet. We don’t need to turn the internet into Disneyland. We can and should teach our kids how to appropriately use the internet, including how to deal with it when they come across questionable situations. That’s actually training kids how to become proper adults and how to deal with things, rather than raising them in Disneyland and expecting that it teaches them enough to handle the outside world on their own.

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Comments on “The Internet Is Not Disneyland; People Should Stop Demanding It Become Disneyland”

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Anonymous Coward says:

But Mike, that doesn’t involve any hyperventilating. It also completely lacks action items for people try to pass them selves off as useful to society to check off for themselves.

On a more serious note: While stating this again is always good, I’m worried about the many times this thing that should be totally obvious has failed to be picked up by a lot of people (or they just choose to ignore it since it doesn’t fit their agenda)

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

no idea why this made me think back to this particular memory:

4th grade. ran across a sentence in a book where i did not understand the sentence structure so i took the book to my teacher and asked her to help me. she looked a little pale and asked me why i was reading that particular book. well, i had read all the books at the school up to 8th grade classroom. i had already read all the books in the local library that the librarians would let me check out. i had read all my sisters’ books. i had blown through all of my dad’s chemistry and physics books…and i had moved on to my mom’s books.

4th grade teacher organized a trip for me to the city’s library. sings heaven!

end of story. literally. find the kid something appropriate to read and move on.

now why she paled upon learning one of her 4th graders was reading robert heinlein no clue. 😉

Anonymous Coward says:


I remember asking my 4th grade teacher if it would make sense for me to read the Silmarillion now that I’d finished the LotR series. Got a glazed look in response. Prompted with “You know, we read The Hobbit at the beginning of the year? I liked it, so I read Lord of the Rings?”
Finally responded with “why don’t you go see if it’s in our library.” It wasn’t. Didn’t end up reading it until I was a teenager. Read Heinlein and Asimov instead.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

I think for a good chunk of content, the analogy is closer to a bar/nightclub/R-rated movie, especially given how much of it get specifically labeled as not for kids for this exact reason.

“Because kids are here” is a very poor reason to rage against things that aren’t meant for kids to begin with. You don’t let your kid see an R-rated movie and then complain that it wasn’t kid-friendly.

While constantly surveilling your kid isn’t a good way to go either, Occasionally looking at what the kid’s interested in can go a long way.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Everyone else owes us a duty to keep us from being offended.

We shouldn’t need instructions on an iron telling people to not iron clothes they are currently wearing… but we do.

We shouldn’t need instructions on qtips telling people to not try and clean their brains with them… but we do.

We shouldn’t need technology to remind parents their kids are in the backseat… but we do.

We shouldn’t be calling the cops because children went to the park or corner store on their own… but we do.

We cannot childproof the world & the sooner we stop demanding it be done the better off we’ll be.

Because your child might eat a tide pod is not a reason to demand that they all come in a container that requires an internet connection & age verification. Put your fscking pods up high, tell your child they aren’t candy, learn to use the word no with your kids.

“We do this already in the outside world, in which we try to teach children how to handle various situations.”

Mike, while I have faith in you raising your children to be prepared for the world, too many others have demanded the world be made nicer ‘for the children’.
Parents today, yes suck my generalization, never want to be ‘the bad guy’ to their kids. They want others to set the rules & enforce them so they can be buddies & friends to their kids. They work so fscking hard to give their kids lives “better” than what they had, that they miss being there, interacting, doing things together. Here watch this stream on netflix while daddy has his meeting on a saturday & then we’ll go to the park…. 8 hours later its to late to go to the park, the kids asleep, & no ones put the ‘baby sitter’ back on the charger so there will be a freak out sunday.

Putting your 5 yr old in designer clothes isn’t for your kids, it is you trying to prove to the world what a wonderful parent you are by spending huge amounts of cash on something that doesn’t really matter. Your 5 yr old would much rather be sitting with you as you read them a story than modeling all the new looks you spent thousands on for insta.

You wouldn’t turn your 10 yr old loose in the mall all by themselves, but they do it with the internet every day…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Actually let’s run with that idea, say the internet is Disneyland, would you as a parent take your kids to the entrance, pay the fee and then pat them on the back and say ‘I’m headed off to do something else, have fun on your own’? Or would just about anyone look at someone like that and immediately think ‘That is a horrible parent for just abandoning their kid like that’, even if the place filled with strangers is supposed to be ‘kid friendly’?

‘I can’t be bothered to act like a parent to my kid so it’s everyone else’s job to keep them from anything I might find objectionable’ is not an acceptable justification to insist that everyone else pick up the slack. If you don’t think you can do the job of a parent or you’re not willing to don’t have kids, and if that’s already passed then look for resources to help you be a better parent, don’t expect or demand everyone else cover for you.

Anonymous Coward says:


would you as a parent take your kids to the entrance, pay the fee and then pat them on the back and say ‘I’m headed off to do something else, have fun on your own’? Or would just about anyone look at someone like that and immediately think ‘That is a horrible parent for just abandoning their kid like that’

Abandoning? What you describe used to be entirely normal for kids above the age of 10 or so, at which age they’d been running around their neighborhoods on their own for years. We’d just schedule a place and time to meet back up, and be given some money and a map.

See, for example, the 1994 Simpsons “Itchy & Scratchy Land” episode, in which the parents go to “Parent’s Island” and the kids run off on their own till dinner. The writers weren’t making that up as an example of bad parenting. Kids, by a certain age, didn’t want to be stuck with their parents all day, and the parents weren’t interested in the same stuff anyway.

(Some parents may react in shock “but what about emergencies!?”, even though most can’t do a thing in a true emergency. Children can’t starve within a day, there are first aid and lost-children offices around, crime isn’t a significant problem in such a public place, and people can be paged if absolutely necessary. Or phoned, now.)

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What you describe used to be entirely normal for kids above the age of 10 or so

It depends if it’s “meet back here at noon” or “I’m going home, have fun at Disneyland”. The former used to be normal, the latter I hope not so much. The analogy might be being available for your kid and checking in with them every so often and asking questions, vs handing them an iPad and checking out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The usual case was probably what you describe, with the parents inside the park—that was my experience. But I think it’s mostly because so many guests come from far away; I imagine many kids who grew up in Anaheim would’ve had a different experience.

Depending on who you ask, kids around 11-15 years of age are considered old enough to supervise (babysit) younger kids. If a 10-year-old is mature enough, and has enough public-transit experience to get to a theme park (or mall) and back, I think it’d be fine. Particularly today, when they can instantly call a parent or look up GPS directions to anywhere. The “free range kids” movement says it can even be good for them.

Sure, “checking out” is bad, but parents do not have to be participating in or closely monitoring everything their children do. Doing stuff without your parents knowing is a time-honored rite of passage, and a good parent needs to have some idea of when their children can be trusted and when some more attention is warranted.

GHB (profile) says:

Parents not truly aware of the internet?

I have a feeling that most parents today are born LONG before the internet has started, while kids may have longer time of experienced in their lives and therefore have more knowledge of the internet than their parents.

I think this is one of the reasons why such people wanted the internet to daycare their children if the children uses the internet. Parent’s Unawareness.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


The problem is “on the internet” makes their brains go stupid.

Kids have always picked on each other.
Kids have always bullied each other.

They’ll scream that it is somehow different but its not.

The biggest problem is as ever… parents refuse to believe their kid might be a bastard.

Parents show up at school and threaten teachers because their little angel didn’t get an A++ on something they hardly bothered to hide they cut & copied from Google.

Their little angels are perfect & it is everyone else out to get their angel for no good reason!

I guess they don’t remember laughing when they saw the jocks shoving the nerd into a locker back in the day.

If parents refuse to set an example of how they expect their child to behave, they really can’t blame the internet for ruining them, they were already messed up before we got to them.

Remember these are the same parents who were screaming & demanding that all the voice assistants be reprogrammed to force children to say please and thank you to them.
We won’t tell our kids to do it & remind them when they forget, you need to change your whole system to make sure my kid has manners to the magic talking box on the table… as well as everyone else who owns one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Singapore is way, way more sinister than what Gibson said.

Singapore does not tailor its laws for kids; it caters its lows for maximum conformity.

Down to the fucking courts, which are basically enforcers for legislation and being “forced” to take “precedent” from an Attorney General who clearly isn’t aligned to the political party that remains in power and thinks that a politician quitting the party is enough to guarantee neutrality a police force led by a massive asshole and political attack dog, politicians more interested in total control than actually leading the people UNLESS the show of leading the people cements their fucking total control and exporting pedophiles to other countries just because they became politically inconvenient for them to handle with their shittastic speech laws.

People CHOOSE to work for Disneyland, at least. Not everyone gets to pick where they get to be born.

And no, I don’t need another reminder of the well-run, low corporate tax haven dystopia Singapore is. Or that I MIGHT prefer another, worse dystopia.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Enforcement tends to be the purview of the police, and the related ministry, ie, the Ministry of Home Affairs, in Singapore.

Unfortunately, in Singapore, the only way to “interpret”, ie, rewrite, the law, is to be part of Parliament and/or the Executive Council, who control, publicly, almost every organ of government, and privately, even the media and the internet infrastructure Singapore needs for a modern workforce.

Judges in Singapore have little to no wiggle room to interpret the law. Constitutional challenges are seen as actual threats to the control of the ruling party.

There’s been some noise being made over the repeal of a certain law recently, where all the lawsuits against it were of a Constitutional Nature. The repealing effectively shuts down a very important path to getting laws reintepreted via case law.

Yes, Singapore is the very model of a well-run totalitarian dystopia, and I’m supposed to be a fool for wanting out.

PaulT (profile) says:

I’ve been to Disneyland a few times. But… I’m not good with heights and rollercoasters. So, I’ve spent time standing to the side while other people get on, and waiting for other family members – including kids – who want to do those things.

So, if you’re using that as the standard, none of you can go on anything as scary as Space Mountain. Sorry guys, both me and a kid in my family are too chicken to go on there, so it has to be demolished.

Or… maybe the fact that we still had a good holiday and exercised personal responsibility and looked after the minors in our group means that the internet stays intact with some adult responsiblity.

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