The Internet Is Not Especially Dangerous For Kids -- Which, Tragically, Isn't Newsworthy To Some

from the should-be-common-sense dept

It's repeated so often that it has almost become a cliché: the Internet is a dangerous place for children. We're regularly treated to alarmist stories about the growing problem of child predators on the Internet. But David Pogue has a great post putting the danger in perspective -- fitting well with recent studies showing the danger is overstated. He says he was asked to write a story on the subject, and when he submitted a story arguing that the dangers were over-hyped, his editor pressured him to track down some examples of Internet-based violence. Pogue says that he "could not find a single example of a preteen getting abducted and murdered by an Internet predator."

The examples he was able to find were almost comically tame. One mother, for example, leapt to unplug the computer to prevent her child from seeing a pornographic image. While I'm not in favor of showing porn to children, it seems unlikely that seeing a naked women will cause a child permanent damage. Pogue points out a PBS documentary with some striking facts. For example, "the data shows that giving out personal information over the Internet makes absolutely no difference when it comes to a child’s vulnerability to predation." And "all the kids we met, without exception, told us the same thing: They would never dream of meeting someone in person they'd met online," -- again just as studies have shown. The real problem here isn't that the Internet is especially dangerous, but that some parents are absurdly over-protective. The Internet, like every other aspect of life, has some risks. But those risks are, if anything, less serious than the risks children encounter in the real world. If kids use their common sense, they'll be perfectly safe. Unfortunately, that's not the message we tend to get from the media.
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Filed Under: david pogue, kids, online dangers


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  1. identicon
    Not the same think, 4 Mar 2008 @ 11:39am

    Not even close

    Could a rapist accomplish the same thing with a classified ad? I seriously doubt it and the comparison is really apples to oragnes. Twenty years ago would a typical teen have actually read a classified ad? Very unlikely unless they were specifically looking for something in the classifieds. I doubt very many teens then or now consider classified ads as an entertainment medium. Not so with the internet.

    A classified ad doesn't compare to internet based dialogs. In print media the sender doesn't really control of the distribution of the ad. A classified ad's reach is limited to the physical distribution of the media (Newspaper, magazine, fan publication). You can't target a demographic at level of granularity lower than the general demographic of the publication. A traditional classified ad can't specifically target an age group, gender, interest group, etc. With the internet you target people like a missile at a bunker and you can aim that shot anywhere in the world any time you want.


    Further, a classified ad is basically a one-way communication channel. The sender doesn't get instant feedback as to whether their message is reaching someone in which they have an interest. You can't initiate an instant dialog via a classified ad the way you can through internet chat, blogs, and email. It is this instant communication and feedback that creates the risk. Predators a very adept on playing on a child's fears, wants, wishes, etc. They can constantly adapt their dialog based on the feedback loop created by the internet.

    ANY communication media has that same potential risks but the internet allows these sickos to spread their infection anywhere, at anytime, and nearly anonymously that was never possible with tradition print media. The issue with the internet is it simply creates greater opportunity for predators to identify and exploit potential victims.

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