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01/19/2009 Online Not So Dangerous for Kids

The Internet seems like a dangerous place. News reports tell us that pedophiles and sexual predators stalk online communities, pose as kids, and lure our unsuspecting loved ones to nefarious ends.

Well, a recent high-level task force created by 49 state attorneys just announced that it isn’t so. They’ve concluded that there’s a lot of hype, but not a lot of evidence to support this fear. Their report shows its very unlikely adults will proposition kids and teens online.

The biggest danger: online bullying between teens.

We had a recent, terrible tragedy in VT last year of a young girl killed by her uncle. The perps broke into her MySpace to make it look like she had been picked up online. The newspapers continued to run with stories of online dangers even after the police debunked it.

Which makes me wonder: Are newspapers and TV perpetuating the myth of online sickos preying on our kids? Are they simply tapping into a parent’s worst fear to paint the Internet as the most dangerous neighborhood?

My young kids are online. My daughter, especially, loves the online social sites. We talk to her about being careful but I’m struck by how with-it she seems. She’s already leaned what to be wary of (asking for passwords) and how the word filters work. It’s amazing to see her calm my wife down, who worries a lot about this kind of stuff.

We online folk have done a sorry job at telling a better story about what kids do online. Just look at a place called Star Doll. What started as a great dress up site now attracts clothing brands with in-game add-ons. It’s one of the most popular sites for teen girls in the world. Maybe there’s an issue with having girls focusing so much on clothes and style, but that’s another issue.

There are more stories of the great things kids are doing online. But we can breathe easier; knowing things are not so dangerous out there.

The kids are all right.


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