I recently stumbled upon a thread in Twitter, an apparent flame war between several patrons of Twitterland. It didn’t affect me personally, but I was drawn in by the vile language and extreme rage being thrown out on both sides. At different points in the threads I read, links were tossed out as “evidence” to backup statements, followed by more links as counter-arguments to accusations.
Then my wife walked into my office with baby girl in her arms…
My daughter will grow up in a technological age unlike anything I or my parents could have imagined. The Internet connects citizens around the world, and information exchange is so quick only telepathy would be faster. While I admire our advances, and the geek in me loves all the gadgets & technical wizardry, I worry about the challenges my daughter will face.
Cyber-bullying. Cyber-stalkers. Identity thieves. Some of these items weren’t even around when I was a teenager. People ask me why I don’t use an alias online, why I make it a point to use my real name on message boards or social networks. First, I generally won’t post something online I wouldn’t say in person, and second I’ve done what I can to establish my actual identity online in hopes it will deter others from pretending to be me. (Not that you would want to do that, I’m really not all that hip) I’ve already been the victim of identity theft.
In eight years it may be next to impossible to tell our daughter “No, you don’t need a cell phone.” I certainly didn’t think an eight year old needed one several years ago, but now “tweens” as they are called seem to be getting younger & younger. There was an article on MSNBC that talked about “Grade-school Lolitas“, how parents are facing the challenges of stemming off a constant tide of media & Internet information that is out there unfiltered. My 7 year old niece thinks she’s fat. Why in the world is a 7 year old concerned about body image?
I dealt with bullies when I was growing up, but they were tangible flesh obstacles I learned to overcome. A quick wit, weight training, Saturday night kung fu and a big dog were all I needed to tackle the bullies of my day. How do I prepare my daughter for an onslaught of cyber accusations or candid images & videos? And it’s not just “kids being kids” or harmless fun, adults are being harrassed as well. Ariel Waldman wrote a post about Twitter harrassment back in May 2008.
Today’s Twitter flame war reminded me just how easy it is for people to horribly abuse technology.