This blog is currently closed until something new crops up, which means ‘probably permanently’. Yes, I know I’ve said that before – three or four times perhaps – but each time there have been things that have drawn me out of retirement like the Aydin Coban fiasco or oddities like the Amanda Todd music tribute.
The main reason for the closure is simply that I have lost interest. My heart’s not in it. There was a time that something like the Thorn Sextortion Report might have prompted me to write more, but instead all it evokes is a sense of ennui mixed with frustration – ennui because of the tediousness of it all (reading exactly the same stuff over and over again) and frustration because, really, we all know that you can’t beat stupidity. Sending noodz could be made a capital offence and people will still be dumb enough to do it.
I would have liked to have written more about solutions, to have been more positive, but basically what I have learned is that there isn’t any cunning plan that works. I’ve watched as authorities have turned instances of sexting into ‘distribution of child porn’, turning 13-year-olds into criminals. What has that done? It’s made kids even more scared to risk owning up to their mistakes, and thus even more open to exploitation. In the latest NSPCC report, children are fully aware of the dangers yet they still get carried away – not being coerced by evil villains, but by others who they momentarily trust completely.
“This guy I met online would listen to all my problems and make me feel good about myself. I honestly thought he cared about me, so I did some sexual stuff over camera for him. As soon as I did, he turned really nasty and started threatening me because he wanted me to do and send more. He’s really scaring me so I regret ever talking to him now. I need help, but I’m terrified about telling my parents because they always told me not to talk to strangers online. I’m finding the situation really difficult to cope with, so I’ve started self-harming.”
Pandora’s box has been opened. Kids are being given access to the Internet – ‘history’s largest sewer’ – from birth. The days of being worried that your kid might find a copy of Playboy or get a thrill from a lingerie catalogue are long-gone – hard-core porn is just a screen away. So unless the world turns Amish, the situation is here to stay.
All doom and gloom? No.
The media likes to give us shock-horror statistics. Every kid’s a suicide risk, every kid is in danger, epidemics, contagion. However, it’s never as bad as it seems. It’s one reason why this blog has become boring – there isn’t enough to maintain that headline-gathering clickbait so loved by online attention-seekers. Sure, there are perverts and predators of the worst kind, but there have always been perverts and predators. The Internet just allows us to think that they are everywhere. Read the suicide-circus information – the lists of tragedies is actually tiny, repeating the same names over and over again. Amanda Todd, Megan Meier, Tyler Clementi, plus a few more. Spread out over years. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t care, but there is a huge tendency for people to start getting bored with endless iterations of misery, and kids lose interest in hearing the same thing all the time.
So can I give any advice?
I’ve kind of distilled my way of thinking. It’s useless going on about parenting. The Philip Larkin poem sums it up.
Expect lawmakers and authorities to help? Not a chance unless you want every kid sent to juvie or your child judged as being in the same league as molesters and perverts after a dim-witted dick pic.
The Internet providers? Only interested in money and advertising revenue.
So it comes down yet again to two things.
Education from an early age. When I started this blog, I thought that 13 was a good start. After all, you can only join Facebook at that age. How naive that appears. Now, I would say primary school age – maybe even as low as six years old. There should be at least an hour a week, not just teaching kids about online technology but offering a place where they can discuss any problems they have – if they’ve seen upsetting things or been bullied – along with discussions about how they are doing in Minecraft. Every school should have at least one qualified Internet counsellor (preferably every teacher should have a basic knowledge of how to deal with Internet problems). This isn’t about endless lecturing of the perils of online life – kids just turn off from all that. It’s about having proper education and a place to go to get advice. And forget about inviting the cops in to talk about it, making it even more terrifying for kids who might be in trouble. School authorities need to have Internet experts who can get involved to provide solutions in the worst cases – not overblown clueless SWAT teams petrifying a couple of kids who have just been stupid.
ChildLine. It’s quite sad to see that the Internet has become the cause of and the answer to all life’s problems. Kids are more likely to put their problems in a blog or in a YouTube confession than to talk to other people. One young girl who threw herself under a train had a blog about her anorexia with 40,000 followers. Do a quick search on YouTube to see how many ‘My suicide story’ ones there are. Unfortunately – in the UK at least – organisations like the Samaritans, ChildLine and the NSPCC are still charity-based. They need to be supported so that they can provide the type of help needed in the 21st century. And I’ll state strongly – support ONLY proven organisations with a track-record of having the correct expertise.
Oh – and just one more thing. Don’t ever, ever, threaten confiscation of Internet access. Kids would rather be tortured than lose their phones.
So that’s it for now. Take care.