Remember the predator panic? It’s not over, of course – presentations with titles like “Facebook, the Sex Offenders’ Catalog” and “MySpace the Predator’s New Playground” (actual titles) are still being given at a time when we need to empower young social media users and their parents, not scare them to death (for more on this, see “A new online safety: The means, not the end”).
Now we really need to prevent a sexting panic from developing. I really believe teens themselves will help us end the trend if they’re given the facts about current child-porn laws (see “Tips to Prevent Sexting”), which hopefully will undergo revisions, where minors and adolescent behavior are concerned and criminal intent is not (see what’s happening in Vermont along these lines).
“But why are technopanics bad, if there’s a chance they’ll scare people into safe behavior?” you might ask. For one thing because the Internet is ubiquitous, here to stay, a tool of participatory culture and democracy, and youth are its most active, fluent users – its drivers, in many ways. Young people aren’t scared of technology. They know all the workarounds if we get scared and try to ban the Net from their lives. They can easily go “underground” (away from home, at friends’ houses, public hot spots, using friends’ very mobile connected devices, from smartphones to music and game players), which can actually put them at greater risk, because when they’re in stealth mode, we’re no longer in the equation, and they need us as backup in their online as well as offline lives.
And there are macro-level, national and global, reasons why panics are bad. Here’s a list, a draft for which your comments and additions are welcome. Technopanics are bad because they…
What am I missing? Please add to or comment the list – via the ConnectSafely forum, commenting here, or email to anne(at)netfamilynews.org. We are literally all in this together, don’t you think?!