Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Children and Internet

HOW do we teach kids and students about internet safety? Can we, really? It was an intense subject of PTA discussion in a Lakewood CA middle school (that I covered years ago). Should parents impose more restrictions, should the school system modify curriculum and introduce a new program to serve the purpose? Meantime, when a child's curiosity gets a bit too zealous, how do we block him/her from the alleged sexual predator, and other kinds of ogres lurking on the e-wall shadow? 

          PUT a password barrier, stabilize firewalls, buy some more anti-this/that apps and software? Remember the first time a child learns how to click the TV remote, or when a teenager first ferrets a Budweiser onto the crib, or a youth excitedly maneuvers his first sedan on a city back alley? Should we heighten the Restricted signs or PG advisories, or post more cops on the road, or should parents start checking every little post, selfie, shared video, Instagram, email etc that their kids send and receive 1001 times a day? Crazy, right?
          I HAVE a very old-school, maybe primitive remedy—or inroads to remedies, should I say. Truth of the time is—that iPad or laptop or iPhone will always be there. There will be a time when all human beings got a Smartphone, plugged in 24/7. Even an infant will be signed into a 5-in-1 Verizon plan, you reckon? So what do we do?
          I GUESS, we just have to not get tired of reminding our kids that people are not emoticons or avatars or emojis that they can control, one-click. People can be nice or rude in a playground, flea market, campus grounds, or dog park. That's real, breathing life—learn how to deal with truths afront. Games are not always Super Smash Bros or PvZ Garden Warfare. There are real games like little league baseball, soapbox derby and table tennis—or what about a real acoustic guitar and piccolo in favor of downloaded dubstep? With these, they can sweat funk out, and laugh aloud, and high-five friends, as well. “Surfing” could be something like paddling a boat in a recreational lake, and “texting” could rest on the dinner table and living room in favor of simply savoring the food blessing or speaking and talking with mouths open not heads bowed. Share some future dreams, travel wishes, and what happened in school today? Books are leafed pages, not electronic flashes on a tiny gadget that got lost in an ocean of legos and puzzle pieces in the den. Teach kids to wash dishes with hands, pick up stuff and things on the floor, fold laundried clothes, vacuum the floor on a weekend at least, build a backyard garden and care for it, walk the dog and have the duty to feed them whenever.
          GOOD ole children's chores when oldies like me were kids. Or in case you have extra dough, travel beyond the US—go to cultures where the internet is simply complementary to “offline” life. Or instead of purchasing more online games and Blu-Rays, why not extra money for saxophone tutorials or ballet classes? In this way, we don't have to get neurotic and paranoid that maybe our 12 or 13 year old boy maybe stealing glances at a Pornhub page or our little girl is chatting to a pedophile in the guise of a cool and awesome 12-year old. Children need to learn “internet safety” as they learn life and living taught by parents who are more concerned with the total well-being of a child, or future adult—not just how to wade around the internet. Computer technology could be as important as automobiles and microwaves—but humanity survive life and salvage wisdom without these. There are other aspects and concerns of life, apparently. We need to mold a child's mind, instead of conditioning their brain; we are raising kids who feel with their hearts because they hear, see, feel, and taste life—and not because all these are programmed, ready for the taking (or tapping, clicking).

          I REMEMBER an 18-year old daughter of a friend in Long Beach CA who went to Haiti for “fun and adventure” to help earthquake victims and came home totally a new human being. Now she questions dishwashers and washer-dryers (“Can we do these with our bare hands?”) cars and SUVs (“Walking is exercise”), cellphones (“There were 5 public phones in an entire village of 1500) video games (“We played soccer in the mud! Awesome!”) and television (“TV was like a moviehouse, scheduled for 35 villagers to watch one movie each week”) etc etcetera. Come to think of it, that's how I grew up. I may have gone old still a crazy dude, but I am proud to say that all my kids—although they use the internet and got cellphones—are still relatively old-school. Still, there are issues to deal other than a wireless abode, right? I'd rather worry about those...
          WHEN a child responds to, “Hey, did you check your Facebook today?” with, “I will for few minutes, I just need to finish this watercolor painting and I need to sleep early today for the volleyball game tomorrow,” then there is hope. No need to hire an “internet safety” tutor. Believe me, they know what “safe” is if their minds are working as natural reflex than brains that so quick at electronic response. 

[Last two photos: Me and Willow; my grandson Keian McMurray]

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