Last night I spoke as part of a panel discussion on the effects of the Internet on our children. I gave my take on the forces which encourage kids to use the Internet and my suggestions as to what parents can do to make this positive.
Below is a link to the PowerPoint presentation. I believe there are strong economic forces which drive children to use the Internet. Children use sites like MySpace and YouTube as fun outlets of expression and entertainment. But the force behind these sites is Advertising. Rising advertising value and spending encourages the development of sites which need the most people to spend as much time as possible as often as possible in one place. By this reasoning, MySpace enables (or perhaps tacitly encourages) many young people to sign up, even if they are underage, in order to gain as large an audience as possible. The site is free, has no age verification, and all your friends are there – how powerful is that?
The second point of my presentation was to offer my suggestions as to how parents can instill good behavior in their children. I included my analogy to sex education, the concept of information persistence, and the values/dangers of World of Warcraft.
The best part of my presentation was in fact the questions/comments from other parents. Most parents recognize that they cannot control completely their children’s use of the Internet (and at best, only in their own home). Stories came out of children changing the clock in the PC, disabling monitoring programs, etc. Kids are smart. Parents are just trying to keep up with what their kids figure out.
The most relevant comment of the night was from a mother who said that parents need to maintain communication among themselves, to share experiences and understand what each others’ kids are doing. Yup, the Internet is no different from every other new fangled innovation society has adopted in each generation. Rock’n’Roll in the 50’s anyone?