Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No need for "Juvenoia" at the Library

Every attempt is made at our library to ensure the safety of kids using the Internet on our public PCs. Frankly, whenever we've had a problem with "inappropriate" use of the web (which thankfully is rare), the culprit is usally a middle-aged male.

That's why it was reassuring to read this article summarizing the findings of Director of UNH's Crimes Against Children Research Center, David Finkelhor. Dr. Finkelhor says that it’s one thing to say that the Internet has dangers on it; it’s a very different thing to say that the Internet increases dangers. This paranoia about kids' Internet safety is deemed "juvenoia".

He puts forth a very different hypothesis: that the Internet just might be protective. “Maybe, on balance, it’s deviance-dampening rather than deviance-amplifying,” Finkelhor said.
So how could the Net be protective?

Here are some features of the Net that could be antidotes to behavioral and social problems -----Reduction of boredom and alienation – the Internet is engaging to kids; it may help distract them from negative emotional states; those who don’t feel a sense of mastery in other environments may feel mastery online.

---Changing patterns of independence exploration – armchair adventuring; the actual risks/dangers may be less immediate online; on the Internet, a few more steps need to occur before things happen, “interactions are more drawn out, given to less impulsiveness”.
---Increased deviance detection – the offense, whatever it is, has a trail of evidence; bullying becomes not just a rumor or hearsay; maybe because of anxiety lots of parents are having more norms-improving discussions with kids than they’ve had before.
---Surveillance effect – we’ve all had to abdicate some degree of privacy, but that may not be all bad; the knowledge you can be tracked has discouraged deviance as well. It allows parents to be more in touch with children and children with one another, which might reduce some kinds of dangers.
“It’s very possible things got better for young people in spite of the Internet,” not because of it, Finkelhor said – “it’s all very speculative right now. But I like throwing these out to move the discussion forward.”

So why are we still so afraid for our children? Finkelhor answers that question too, in part two of the article here:

Very interesting stuff...

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