Monday, December 17, 2007

Be Afraid - Your Children Are Being Terrorized In Cyberspace

This is the sort of article- Bullying in Cyberspace- that just rubs me the wrong way in so many different places. And if that sounds disgusting, that's the idea.

First, I hate the term cyber-bullying. And yes, it makes sense as a term, but no, it's not a big problem. Do boys pick on each other? Sure. Do girls spread nasty rumors and make nasty comments? Of course they do. Is this a major social problem? Not really. For every young girl who commits suicide there are millions of girls who just brush the nastiness away. For every Columbine, there are millions of outcast teenagers who dress in black and eventually grow up to be fairly normal adults. The media hooks us on to the sensational stories and convinces us of a national problem before we really have the chance to absorb what has happened.

Yes tragedies do happen. But this is not a solution:

The council [National Crime Prevention Council] started offering free software this week that parents can use to find out whom their kids are talking to online and what they are saying.

The McGruff Safeguard software, named after the nonprofit council's crime-fighting dog, allows parents to access daily logs that show what websites their kids are visiting and provides them with copies of their children's instant messages.

The tracking software, which is easily installed on a computer, lets parents preset screens to alert them to sexual conversation, hateful words and self-destructive behavior. Parents can also set their own "watchwords" and subscribe to a free service that alerts them immediately by e-mail or cellphone message when watchwords are detected.

Since when did spying on your kids become good parenting? It's sort of sick that the world has become a place where parents teach their children that the watchful eye of of big brother is the only way to stop tragedies from happening. This is what I just don't get- if you don't feel your kid is mature and responsible enough to handle full blown internet access, than restrict what they can do- don't give them their own computers, don't allow them online if your not home, and restrict what websites they can go to. But if you do feel your kids is fairly mature and responsible, well, why not let them venture into the world of the internet on their own, just the same way they'll be going off into the real world on their own in a few years.

Even worse is the continued real-world bullying of Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he plans to reintroduce legislation in the next few months that would require social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to use software that verifies users' ages and identities. Similar legislation failed in the legislature this past year.

Blumenthal said he is also working with a national attorneys general task force to pressure social networking sites like MySpace to use the identification software nationwide.

"We're very concerned about [Internet predators]," Blumenthal said. MySpace says identity verification can't be done, Blumenthal said.

"We say there are ways to do it."

Of course there are ways to do it, but other than a system requiring a credit card for access, I can't imagine what those other ways might be. In terms of political pressure Blumenthal might have some success, but as a purely legal matter, you can't force internet sites to require age and identity verification. Adult sites can be forced to do just that because of the material they are providing - but I can't imagine any court ever upholding a restriction aimed at a certain type of non-adult website. I don't know all the nitty gritty of First Amendment law in this respect, but I just can't imagine it would be Constitutional to force certain types of websites to require identity verification. After all, as a technical matter, blogs are virtually indistinct from social networking sites ... and imagine a law that would not allow you to use a site like blogger to write an anonymous blog.

Everyone gets all worked up about protecting the children, but few of the scare mongers ever take the time to understand or even care about the restrictive measures they propose.

And I know I refrain from being mean and nasty in this blog ... but Richard Blumenthal, you're a greasy, slimy, fascist pig. Now I feel a little better.


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