Siegel, Lee. “The Kids Aren’t Alright.”
When regulators at the Federal Trade Commission take steps within the coming weeks to strengthen the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, they could well be acting with Vicki Turner in mind.
Along with raising her three kids, ages 16, 13, and 7, and working a job with handicapped children and adults, the 43-year-old resident of Fullerton, Calif., also spends a big part of her life monitoring her oldest kids' online activities: steering them away from inappropriate content, preventing them from uploading photos of themselves onto commercial sites that invite them to do so, and occasionally making them unfriend a person on Facebook whom ...view middle of the document...
But welcome as those changes will be, they will have little effect on the Internet's social environment, which in many ways has made being a modern American parent more complex than ever before. "It used to be the proverbial question: 'It's 10 o'clock, do you know where your children are?'" says Jamie Wasserman, a child therapist with a practice in Manhattan. "Now your kid can be sitting a few feet away from you in the living room with a laptop, being damaged"
By "damage," Wasserman doesn't mean only the danger of meeting a predator on the Internet. She is also referring to what seems to be an almost inﬁnite spectrum of online harm. A child could be bullied or harshly excluded from an instantly formed clique. At the same time, the pressure to be constantly posting, tweeting, and updating one's status threatens to obstruct the development of what used to be called, in unwired times, a child's "inner resources" With all the frenzied social networking on sites like Facebook, our kids are often forced to be social before they have become socialized.
Even for the most gregarious children, the Web's constant reminder of majority opinion makes them fearful of trying to say or do anything that doesn't please the crowd. Yet appealing to the Web's masses also offers them the temptation to say things they would never ordinarily have uttered in public -- things that can come back to haunt them later in life.
I look at my own children, a 6-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl, and I wonder not just what the world has in store for them, but also how they will be able to ﬁnd the world. When I was 5, people used a typewriter and talked on a landline. When I was 35, people were still conversing on old-fashioned phones. Between the time my son and my daughter were born, texting overtook both cellphones and emailing, desktop computers became obsolete, Twitter was born, the iPod passed through several generations, and both the Kindle and the iPad were invented.
The process of maturing is a movement from a rich yet defensive inner space to the outer reality of pleasure postponement, setback, and perseverance. But the Internet offers one recessive chamber after another of inwardness; it is a place where distraction and immediate gratiﬁcation become cognitive tools in themselves. The main barrier between parent and child, which looms gigantic in adolescence, is the stubborn insularity of a child's world. These days that insularity has its own enabling techniques, skills, and idiom. What used to be quaintly called the generation gap is now adorned with the corporate logos of Apple, Google, and Facebook.
This is why few people seem sympathetic to Facebook's desire, publicly announced over the summer, to sign up children under 13, especially parents like Turner, who are ﬁghting against escalating odds to keep up with ever-accelerating technology that they barely understand but which their children have mastered to the point of jadedness. Thomas Hughey, a...