Is internet dangerous for kids or does parents misunderstand what happens

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This blog post by Jon Husband and the  article from the Guardian it menstions takes me to wonder about the presumed impact of the net and its use on kids.

People worry about the time teenagers spend online. So what ? I think that all generations, theirs,mine and our parent’s had their favorite leisures. For some it was TV, for others miniature trains, Barbie dolls had their fans too who were taking care of it like if it was in real life while their brothers were trying to become the new Magic Johnson on the nearest playgroung and, later, on their game console. The list is long and we can all try to remember what was catching our attention when we were younger. Things are not that different now. Is this dangerous ? Not more than everything that catches all our attention and makes us forget about the rest. Not less either. In brief, nothing new since my grandmother’s time.

A danger kids have to be protected from is isolaton caused by too all-consuming leisures. Here again, I don’t find there’s anything new. Solitary leisures cut people from the rest of the world, collective leisures cut kids from their parents. Nothing new.

So why so much fear in front a phenomenon that’s been known for years ?

Because, while being conscious of all the possible excess that have to be avoided, parents used to understand what their children were doing. Dolls, video games, miniature trains were activities that could be understood by all even if they didn’t understand why their kids liked it so much. What’s new today is that, most of times, people don’t understand what their kids do. Of course they know the tool, the computer, the median internet, but what they don’t understand it was it’s used for. Weeks ago I was advising a top manager who was discovering the power of social networks applied to business and internal organization. Not only he was obviously happy to discover what he was now able to do with his staff, but he also told me : “now I understand what my kids are doing on the net”.

Because, and on the contrary to what happend to their elder in most cases, their favorite activity is a socializing one. Parents have to undersant that, internet being only a space, kids are not on the web but with their friends. The young kid that spend his afternoon on the net is not autistic. I’d rather say than he communicates and socializes more than the previous generations. Here again, the misunderstanding comes from the fact kids and parents don’t use the same medias.

I’ll end saying that this addiction don’t makes them mono-maniac : they do exactly what their elder used to do, sometimes more, but using only one media where others instead of spreading themselves. In a one and only place they can find the newspaper, their favorite radio and music, the informations they need, the game they play with their friends.

So do we have to worry in front of these new behaviors ? As you can see, they’re not that new. Their channel is. I know parents who are very comfortable with these things and enjoy them together with their kids. They even communicate more than previous generations did.

Of course, there  are some dangers on the web. It’s a well known fact that a rapist hides behinds every internaut. Anyway, the governement says that. [Perhaps you may not understand this note if you didn’t see the TV commercials issued by the french governement saying that everything you can do on the net is risky]. By definition internet is the world : same behaviors, same people. The danger is not the tool, it’s the people who use it. Teaching kids some surfing rules is as obvious as telling them to watch out when they cross the steet or not to follow the guy who want to offer them them candies in the park. Finally, it’s mainly adults who have to be taught how to teach their kids some essential things. But the current campaigns we can see in France are more about making parents treat more parents as children than they really protect kids.

Whatever…I would have liked to be a teenager in 2009 !