I love this sentiment from Stephen Downes on his Half an Hour blog (which for some reason I didn’t find until today.)
I think there is no question that there is a lot of bad behaviour on the internet, and even the briefest observation shows that it is the adults, and not the kids, who are behaving badly. And in spaces such as MySpace, it does seem that the only adult presence is a negative one.
Is our best response, though, to kick the kids off MySpace? My first reaction seems to be that we are punishing the kids for the actions of the badly behaved adults.
After all, if a grown man came to a school playground and started swearing and drinking and making lewd remarks, we would react by removing the adult, not by preventing children from accessing the park.
The point is, it is up to adults to moderate the behaviour of adults. And if children are not being presented proper role models, then it is up to adults to ensure that such models are available to them. And the way to do that is not to shield them from all possible role models, because that negates the benefit of the internet. The way to do it is to be present in this space, to moderate the adults who are behaving badly, and to ourselves act as reasonable role models.
This is about so much more than MySpace that it isn’t even funny. It drives me absolutely nuts that we passively condone the horrific violence and the objectification of women (among other things) that are all around us in the media, yet when kids act stupidly in response to that we are shocked. Take 30 seconds and look at this ad. I mean really look at it. (And then spend about 30 seconds looking at this page.) And then look at it through my 8-year-old daughter’s eyes and my 6-year-old son’s eyes. And then repeat those images about 500,000 times until they get old enough to put up a MySpace site and watch what happens. Watch what happens, that is, unless I’m there constantly pointing out the motives, the lies, the misconceptions that are the fabric of those images. (My daughter now stops me before I even start with “I know Dad, I know. She’s not real…”)
The dirty little secret is that we as a society are all up in arms about MySpace not because it’s not safe but because it’s making visible the extent to which we are failing our kids.