Can you handle the meta? I’ll be commenting on Mark Morford’s comments on a piece in New York Magazine about these kids today and their internets. Here’s Mark’s ever-eloquent, ever-snarky summary:
“If you believe the media skew, if you see it all through a lens of fear or lack of nimble perspective, suddenly it’s all drooling MySpace sexual predators and binge-drinking frat-boy idiots and millions of lost brain-rotted teens snorting ketamine off each other’s stolen iPods and then shooting each other in the face after playing 6 million hours of Grand Theft Auto, one giant violent sexed-up gum-snapping body-pierced eating-disorder STD-ready freak show ready to implode at the drop of a hat or the shave of a Britney.
And it’s also one big dumb, overblown lie. Well, most of it.”
The message to parents: calm down. Raising kids today isn’t weirder or more dangerous than it used to be, it’s just differently weird and differently dangerous. In the 50’s, conventional wisdom was that rock and roll was dangerous, and now people pay upwards of $100 to see crusty dope fiends like the Rolling Stones play at their local arena. Yes the Internet allows kids to put more of themselves online, but the threat of online predators is about as valid as that of muggers in Manhattan: real but rare.
For everything you gain, you lose something. What kids gain with the social Internet (MySpace/LiveJournal/Flickr/Facebook/et al) is a way to express themselves, a platform for communicating more easily with their friends, and an archive of their adolescence that they can refer to throughout their lives. What they lose is perhaps some measure of safety/privacy, the ability to escape past mistakes/embarrassments, and maybe some fresh air.
There’s a real temptation for a parent who grew up in front of a TV watching cartoons to feel disconnected and paranoid about their kids growing up in front of the Internet, because it’s a different world from the one they grew up in; but isn’t that always the case? Personally I’m more afraid of kids growing up eating so much fast food and/or microwaved crap as fewer parents seem to cook these days.
And for heaven’s sake, if the sight of your kid glued to a laptop all day bugs you, take them outside! I had my nieces and nephew over Monday night, and when I saw each of them playing online games, I immediately suggested we go play frisbee. Fortunately they have not lost their zeal for real world activities.