Monday, June 15, 2015
Back in the day, kids played around in the neighborhood. Cops and robbers. Cowboys and Indians. Games of football, basketball, baseball, hide and go seek, kick the can, capture the flag, all in their various forms and locations. If kids got out of line, little Johnny knew Billy’s mom was good friends with his mom. And the unwritten code of the neighborhood allowed Billy’s mom to inform Johnny’s mother of the bad behavior. Sometimes, Billy’s mom would even discipline Johnny. And Johnny's mom would THANK her.
Unfortunately, neighbors hardly know each other anymore. Their kids rarely hang out together. And if they do, “You had better not lay a finger on my child, or I’ll sue!”
This ability to connect with people without building relationships is the key. We have “friends” on Facebook we didn’t really know before we accepted their request. We have other one we have never seen on years. We send out little tidbits of our lives (or other family member’s lives), pithy sayings, funny pictures, alarming videos, etc., and call it “friendship.” We “Like” it, “Share” it, make “Comments,” yet after a week of this ocean side, one-inch deep socialization, we still don’t really know anyone any better than we did before, unless we’re making snap judgments about their politics, decisions about clothing styles, or choice in companions.
Yeah. We really know that person because they said something about the president’s policies or another person’s religious beliefs.
Or that they watched “Dancing with the Stars” last night…and now they're angry because little miss So-and-So got kicked off the show.
Or they posted a video taken in a Wal-Mart...
Yep. That tells me everything about them, doesn’t it?
This phenomenon also empowers people. Stuff you’d never say, standing in a Town Hall meeting, or on the street corner, or in a classroom, will all of a sudden come gushing out as you now feel strong enough to type it and hit “Send.”
It’s all so liberating. Isn't free speech wonderful?
But the times….they are a-changin’.
There’s a prevailing wind blowing from major capital cities in the western world. It’s a growing sentiment among politicians: Parents will never be parents. Parents are too busy, too uninformed, too lackadaisical, maybe even too stupid to know what’s best for their children, so government will step in and do what parents should have abrogated but failed to do so.
Take the stance Australia is taking, for exhibit #1. They have created a new position, called “E-Safety Commissioner." This new commissioner “will be empowered to issue notices to cyber-bullies to take down harmful online posts, or face court injunctions or police referrals.” Of course, this law targets Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, primarily. I’m sure other sites will be monitored as well, but let me ask this question: Because these sites experience such a high volume of traffic (millions of posts a minute combined), how will one commissioner monitor all the posts, decipher them, and ferret out the “Harmful posts”? (And what determines “Harmful”?) Will they have to use computer programs that scour these sites and examine every word—TSA-style—and when a certain number of “red flag” words are packaged together in one post, then will it bring that person's account to the attention of E-Safety Commissioner? And if the perpetrator turns out to be living in Guam or Atlanta, Georgia, then what? Do they extradite? The point is, monitoring of your child's sites is not just something they are thinking about doing. They are already doing it.
Exhibit #2 comes from the Land of Lincoln. The state of Illinois now has a law on the books wherein if it can be shown, by way of a post on a social media site, that it occurred during school hours, then the school administration has the right to request the password of the student in question for the purpose of looking for cyber bullying activity. In other states, this goes a little too far, and having the student type in the password for an administrator is the preferred method of accessing such evidence. The point here is, your child's activity should not be happening at school, and if your child does post something at school, he or she may run the risk of having every post on their page subject to review.
Now, the United States doesn’t have an overarching law yet to handle cyber bullying, but it is covered under already existing federal law and is mandated to be investigated whenever cyber bullying looks, smells and tastes like harassment.
Here’s my point in bringing all this up: With freedom comes great responsibility. And if parents don’t start taking responsibility for their children’s actions via technology, then their (we are talking about the parents here) freedoms will be confiscated “for the sake of saving lives.” And it’s not just concerning the issue of cyber bullying we are talking about when it comes to the freedom/responsibility issue. It also pertains to anything illegal your student could do while using technology, whether it be a smart phone, tablet, or regular computer...and what could be done to them as victims, whether they be at the hands of a cyber bully, a child pornographer, a pedophile, or human traffickers. It's not safe out there. I always wonder why parents who would never allow their kids to walk the mean streets of a major city at two in the morning think nothing of allowing them to "walk" the even viler streets of cyber space.
Good parents not only want to know where their children are at all times (e.g., Are they at a friend’s house? At home doing their homework? At soccer practice?), but they should also want to know where their children are in cyber space and what they are doing while there.
Who knows? Your child’s actions may land you in jail. And if something really horrendous took place—like your child being responsible for another child taking his or her life—and you, the parent, purchased the phone and the phone is in your name, then you might someday become an accessory to murder. Sound bizarre? Ludicrous? Far-fetched? Check out the articles below and let me know if you think it is.
As I see it, it’s only a matter of time, so be proactive. Get ahead of the issue. Keep tabs on your child’s cyberspace activity…it may save you both. (Here’s a tip sheet to help.)
*Generic photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years experience as an administrator at the high school level.
A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, he is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.
Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24 , The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.
Facebook: C. Kevin Thompson – Author Page
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