Friday, January 16, 2009

cyber etiquette for kids

Yesterday Jack, who's not yet 8, wanted to post a picture of an angry midget on his blog and say that it was his dad. Deep sigh. There were many things wrong with this scenario. First of all, I don't think "midget" is the term people use anymore. And funny as Jack thought the idea was, outright lying on something read by people he knows is wrong. Or is it? Was/am I making too big an issue of the strange but relatively harmless idea of a kid? He was putting words and images to his imagination. If he wrote that in a story, I would have found it strange, but would have appreciated his novel viewpoint and creativity. Somehow, putting it out for the world to see was different.

Which brings up the whole issue of people creating fake personas online. I know parents who have fake identities so their kids will friend them on facebook. I know women in their 70s (ok, I know one) who hung out in gay chat rooms. People have myspace pages for their cats, their turtles, their alter egos. Being honest is not a requirement for online communication. In some ways, the anonymity of cyberspace allows for extreme honesty—when you have time to think through your thoughts before shooting off an email, it's often easier to say exactly what you want without being in the same space as someone else. It's also reassuring to not see a reaction, which allows people (me) to sometimes put more out there than I usually would. On the other hand, it's really easy to lie, to be someone else. Isn't that what video games are all about? What is Sim City? You're a master planner in charge of the fate of some city you create. They have that now for kids. Cyber realities where you can change everything about yourself.

Ok, I'm losing my point. But, I have one more tangent. A kid I know called people "bitches" on his facebook page. I was offended but wondered if I'm wrong. Maybe I'm too old. Maybe kids are growing up in this altered reality where an online world is their reality, or at least a significant part of it. Maybe the combination of hyper-honesty and full-fledged fantasy is the wave of the future. Or the present.

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