The fear-mongering that goes on in local news broadcasting is the top reason I don’t watch local news EVER. For that matter I watch very little television news at all, save maybe the Daily Show, which of course is fake news. But the local newscasters stoop to the most unbelievable paranoia inducing crap “reporting”; I can only figure that it’s a desperate cry for ratings. If you scare them enough, they will come.
In scanning through a couple of blogs from folks up here in my area, I learned that one of our local stations recently ran a piece about how blogging can lead pedophiles right to your door. Kids are revealing too much online the news report says, with the expert Brendan Sheehan (a Cuyahoga County Prosecutor who specializes in Internet crime) spouting off that because the pedophiles will know these kids innermost secrets, they can apparently instantly scam their way right into your teenage girl’s heart.
First - where is this coming from? A case where this has happened? Um, no. This is all theoretical. My guess is that this newscast mostly just gave a few pedophiles some ideas on ways to get their jollies more than anything else. And broadcasting random pictures of cute girls from the Xanga site, along with their profile names, and even showing a chat session with a young girl displaying her IM name to whoever is watching was just brilliant folks. Brilliant! Let’s help those pedophiles find the site and start working their way through - here’s some cute girls to start with… go for it!
Second - What about teaching your kids some common sense? Never is it mentioned in this newscast that it might be good idea to talk to your children about blogging, about the possible consequences of sharing too much info with the world, or about using some common sense when approaching any interaction with people on the Internet. It all comes back to parenting people. If the newscast had been about teaching your kids Internet safety, I wouldn’t have said a word. But the closest they came to that was to tell kids to use a pencil and paper to journal (!!), keep the computer in a main room, and tell your kids never to chat with strangers (like the random guy who tells you he’s doing a news story and wants to ask you some questions about blogging… he’s just creepy!).
The last two bits of advice I don’t necessarily disagree with, but the pencil and paper thing was just ridiculous. How about you talk to your kids about making their journals private or “friends only”? (Something that can easily be done with most of the major blogging packages, as far as I know.) How about suggesting that they keep a journal that isn’t on a webpage but is simply a file somewhere on their computer? There are several programs out there that can do this, or hell, just use a Word doc.
And they missed out on the easiest way to teach your kids safety in blogging: If your kid is blogging and has made it easy enough for someone to find them by posting enough personal info, you should be able to find that blog yourself. Find it, read a little bit, then tell your kid you did this. I’m willing to bet they’ll think a little more about what they’re posting, or stop posting altogether knowing that Mom or Dad is reading every word. Or at least they’ll figure out a way to hide it better, which really, is the whole point.