Monday, February 25, 2008


I love New York City. I love the diversity, the shopping, the art, the atmosphere and the history stored within its architecture and ever nook and cranny. I would not however let my child roam free around the city for obvious reasons. It is a fabulous place but it can be wrought with danger for a minor. Sure you may want to go sightseeing and draw from the vast culture in New York that is freely available, but would you let your kids traipse around in the city without a chaperone.

The answer for most parents is a surprising: Yes. That’s because their kids are on the computers unguided for most of the time they are using those home systems and laptops. Without limitations or guidelines, your child is open to the worst that mankind can put out there.

Before we go on about keeping information free and all that, let me just preface this whole conversation by saying that I think the Internet is one of the most fantastic developments in modern times. Truly, I believe that the sharing of resources and ideas across the Internet has changed the world for the better. Bloggers, Podcasters, news sites, and all types of social networking sites have come along to increase out literacy and cultural realm. How many people are now writing, reading and viewing things that ten years ago they never would have been able to do. How many people—including children—are able to take advantage of the vast global resources at their fingertips. Where you used to rely on outdated encyclopedias and trips to the library, we now can research any (and I challenge you to find something of interest that you can’t find on the internet) topic no matter how esoteric. This is a cultural, economic and social phenomenon that will someday be looked on as a Revolution much like the Industrial Revolution we studied in History classes.

Just like the phenomenal advances in civilization that occurred with the Agricultural and then the Industrial Revolution in the history of mankind, the Internet or Information revolution has its dark side. Where slavery and forced labor were the results of the Agricultural Evolution, and unhealthy working conditions within factories that numbed the mind and body while polluting the heck out of the environment came out of the Industrial Revolution, the proliferation of stupidity, pornography and hateful messages is the byproduct of the Internet Revolution.

And you don’t always need a credit card or a password to find it. Any search will lead an individual to a host of free X-Rated downloadable images. Or some sites that cater to hatemongering, Anti-Semitism, Discrimination, and plain falsehoods disguised as fact can be found everywhere. Because it is free, the Internet attracts some whackos. That’s the only and best way to put it.

Consider MySpace. This social networking site has attracted millions upon millions of users. The site is slow, clumsy and buggy, but there are so many people on it that it doesn’t matter. Anyone from a major superstar down to my dog can have a MySpace page. Within this community forms sub-communities of like-minded people and there are no more like-minded people than teenagers. They have walls upon walls around them to shield their hormonal little bodies from the rest of the world, which by the way is so stupid. Within this community of teens they post back and forth on each other’s MySpace pages. For the most part it is pretty mild stuff. But there are the flames, which is a term that is used for derogatory remarks on a posting board. And there are what we call trolls who come along on a posting board and their sole intentions is to stir the shit.

Teenagers tend to flame and troll at an astounding rate. To each other they speak a short hand of archaic and stilted language that I find sometimes very hard to decipher. The texting process, whether through cell phones, post boards or chats is fast paced and tiresome. It is literally a conversation that is typed by hand and as we all know if we’ve ever had to take notes from a teacher, the mouth can move much faster than the hand can translate. SO this shorthand translates thoughts and emotions (like emoticons) quickly.

It is an amazing concept that deserves much study. But when it’s your kid and you want to know what the heck he’s saying to his friends it can be frustrating.

Then there is the IM or Instant Messaging. AOL has cornered the market on this with its AOL Instant Messenger software or AIM. Kids download the mini program or use an Internet based one to chat with friends at a frenetic pace. This is where the short hand really comes in and a sentence that would look normal is full of grammatical errors, deleted punctuation, spelling shortcuts and contrived acronyms.

Try reading one of your teenager’s IM chat transcripts one day. After a page and a half you start wondering where they keep the Rosetta Stone to translate this gibberish. At the risk of sounding like a cranky old man—I know, I know too late—it is the bane of all English teachers everywhere.

In defense of this, I have to say that the future is coming much sooner than you might think and if your child is not able to talk in this code they may not be able to participate in the business economy of the 21st Century. It is inevitable that CEOs in twenty or thirty years will be texting the executive board by saying “IMHO the stck $ is in very gud plz rite now. G2G, pz.” Let me translate: “In my humble opinion the stock price is very good right now. Got to go. Peace.” Not much of an improvement but at least it’s in English, or the current version English.

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