All we need are buckets of mud and a dream. Who’s with me?
You might think this parenting-news gig is pretty sweet, but let me tell you, it’s a weekly exercise in horror. Want to know what my afternoon was like? Head over to Google News and search for the words “parents” or “child.” The 364,000 items that pop up are all one of the following permutations: Parents Distraught Over Child’s Horrible Death; Child Dies in Horrible Death, Parents Blamed; Child Murders Parents, Horribly; Parents and Children Die in Bizarre Murder/Suicide Pact, Take Grandparents With Them. After a few minutes of this kind of masochistic research, I hid under my coffee table until it was time to pick up my son from school.
It seems like bad news is everywhere, all the time, and guess who has to write about it?Not the one who gets to write about the Golden Globes, that’s who. Then again, when good news happens I find myself incapable of writing anything smart about it. Take the discovery of Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby, a wildly positive news story; I tried to write something smart about it all week, but in the end all I could manage was, “Isn’t that something?” Then I chuckled amiably and wandered off, my thumbs hooked in my overalls.
But enough about me! On to the (bad) news. Or rather, the aftermath of some pretty horrific news. After their daughters were sexually assulted by adults they met on MySpace, a group of parents are suing NewsCorp, MySpace’s parent company. According to the suit, MySpace had received numerous complaints about online predators and, while they’ve worked to make their site safer for children, their actions were “too little, too late.”
My first thought here was, shouldn’t the parents shoulder some of the responsibility? The suit has charge MySpace with, among other things, “negligence.” But don’t the parents, you know, live with these kids? Aren’t they supposed to be raising them and so forth?
I feel distinctly unqualified to weigh in–although that never stopped me before–as my son is four, knows nothing about this “Internet,” and hides nothing from me. But I only have a few more years of feeling smug and worry-free; according to the FBI, one in five children between the ages of 10 and 17 have been approached for sex online. And those are just the ones who report it. To the FBI.Therefore, as soon as my son becomes computer literate, I intend to move him and my family to a mud hut in an undisclosed location.
So I turn to you, parents of Internet-savvy children: what do you think of these lawsuits? Does the responsibility lie with the technology, or the family? Both? (I’ll bet some of you even-keeled types are going to say both. I can feel it.) What do you do to keep your kid safe? Has your child had any creepy encounters? Have you thrown your computer out the window? Do you no longer trust anything electronic, and send your child to school with an abacus?
Those of us with small, illiterate children look forward to your perspective with a mixture of dread and more dread.