Who’s Online?

May 7, 2010

Tonight we’re joined once again by guest blogger Bret, who’s quite timely given there was a front page story in the NY Times today about Formspring:

For the past several weeks, the hot topic in the 6th grade at my son’s school has been social networking. While we had been discussing Facebook, texting and other electronic activity, much of the hoopla stemmed from the kids’ increasing use of formspring.me, a web site that allows anonymous comments to be posted on users’ profiles. Sparked by reports that a Long Island girl had committed suicide partially due to cyber-bullying on Formspring, parents and kids in our community were abuzz. I’ve been relatively aware of my son’s online life, and we talk pretty openly, but the concern at school was hitting a new level and I’m the first to admit that the kids are generally a step or two ahead of us when it comes to this stuff. As luck would have it, the school had previously arranged for well-known educator and author Rachel Simmons to speak to the parents of 6th-8th graders. She was amazing and you should definitely check out her site at http://www.rachelsimmons.com. One of the bottom lines of her message was that the kids should be a little pissed off (her words, but mine too) on the limits we place on their online and texting activity, and a little paranoid that we’re watching what they do — if they aren’t, we’re doing something wrong. I partially agree, and based on her tips we imposed a few more restrictions. For example, our son was on the formspring.me site and acting responsibly, but the terms of use had a minimum age of 13 so we told him to shut it off (and the school generally reinforced that approach last week). Rachel has a whole write-up about Formspring: http://www.rachelsimmons.com/2010/03/what-every-parent-should-know-about-formspring-the-new-cyberscourge-for-teens/.

She had other tips, such as not allowing children to leave cell phones in their bedrooms after lights out (apparently some kids sleep with their phones just in case an important text message arrives in the middle of the night). At the same time, our son is such a good kid and student (must be my wife’s genes), that my default is to trust and give him some latitude unless/until he messes up. And he was visibly angry that the school and others were pressuring him to stop using an online tool that isn’t necessarily evil when used in an appropriate way. In fact, we ended up having a very productive discussion about free speech, in loco parentis and some other serious topics that, of course, I didn’t address until I was in high school and college (again, he’s a step or two ahead). So for now, I feel like I’m involved and aware. Of course, he’s sitting right next to me on his computer doing who knows what. So stay tuned. . .

Single of the Week

Here’s Ken:

FOFF Tori passed this tune by Die Antwoord on to me many months ago. I loved it, but waited to share it here until I came across other Afrikaner Zef-Rap groups. I visited various law firms, nail salons and taquerias asking people if they’ve heard anything hot and happening in the South African hip-hop scene, but to no avail. The video includes some gratuitous use of some poor guy with progeria (premature aging), but besides that, it’s a brilliant balance of Borat, Vanilla Ice and Athol Fugard.
Too much white wine tonight…have a great weekend!!

One Response to “Who’s Online?”

  1. Matt Says:

    I think Bret (my dad) is correct in that some restrictions are unnecessary and that as long as the Internet isn’t used in a bad way, it can be helpful and beneficial. I can understand how some restrictions are helpful but I should be allowed to post exactly the same things my dad does and write the same things.

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