The Internet Parent
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Cautionary Tale of Community Building

Pedophiles Know Something Important...

The New York Times published two articles on August 20th and 21st (registration required...for a repost of the first article at CNet, try here) regarding pedophilia and how pedophiles use the Internet to build their own community.

You'll be shocked at the content of these two articles. Shocked and outraged and amazed at the terrible, warped mindset that enables adults to re-interpret their molestations of children as fair, reasonable, and even beneficial, loving behavior.

But I want you to be more than shocked and outraged. I want you to really understand something much more important: Recognize how the Internet can be used to catalyze human behavior, and to reinforce human behavior. And to create community.

When I speak in public, I often relate how the entire range of human behavior, from the most sublime to the most depraved, is available on the Internet. I need to modify that comment:

"The entire range of human behavior, from the most sublime to the most depraved, is available and reinforced on the Internet."

That means we have to get serious about protecting our kids from the negative behavior, and playing our part in reinforcing the positive.

Part of that job relates to our kids ... and I could go on and on about protecting our kids from unsavory characters who encourage and reinforce unsavory behavior.

But more important, I want to highlight how this issue relates to our peers - other parents and community members that are in guardianship roles around our children. WE have to build community around acceptable "parental guidance" and community rules.

Would you have ANY problem saying to your 13-year old,

"You can't go to Jimmy's house because his parents let him get drunk and watch X-rated movies..."?

Of course you wouldn't. But do you even ASK THE QUESTION about whether Jimmy's house has a computer that has no (or pathetically weak) parental controls? When your child asks to go to a friend's house, is that part of the "parental screening" you routinely do? Is it on your parental "check-list" of which neighbors provide a good, safe, and healthy environment, and which do not?

This is the essence of community action. We do this all the time when we trust that our neighbors won't take our kids to an R-rated movie without checking in with us. That's community behavior. We all agree on that standard of guardianship.

We need to adopt a similar standard of guardianship regarding use of the Internet, whether it's surfing, downloading videos, using Chat and Instant Messaging, or just playing on-line games. And we need to be brave enough to stare down our kids -- and our neighbors -- when they don't step up to our expectations.

Read the articles. You'll see that the pedophiles use all kinds of reinforcing mechanisms to help build and solidify their community, and their community standards. They cajole, advise, support, console, and expound on the right-ness of their positions and behaviors.

Do you?


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