What Makes the Internet Unsafe?

Feb 08, 2011

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Happy Safer Internet Day! Yes, that's right, although you may not have heard about it- it is today. Although pushed by a European Union funded group, it's always good to think about being safer online.

It came to my attention because of some resources put out by Yahoo spotlighting how parents are doing at protecting their children and some new resources Yahoo has made available regarding Internet safety over at http://safely.yahoo.com. I was really happy to see the great content they have there and recommend you take advantage of it. There's some great info there. I especially like the family pledge worksheet, which outlines an agreement that parents and their children agree to follow. Communication about these topics is vital. If all you do is build a wall, when your kids are outside the wall, they'll have no clue what they should do.

Unfortunately, a rather large elephant in the room seems to have been left out of the festivities. There is appropriate emphasis on cyber-bullying, identity theft, smartphone safety, and online privacy. These are important. Here and there in the Safer Internet Day and Yahoo! Safely content are references to "inappropriate content". It appears that the term pornography is no longer politically correct. Maybe it's just too harsh and writers and editors are opting for inappropriate content because it sounds milder.

The fact is that "inappropriate content" is everywhere, and often isn't thought of as inappropriate. TV shows and movies talk about pornography as a funny joke that adults elbow each other and snicker about. It's just something that's portrayed as a part of growing up. While dealing with and avoiding pornography is a necessary life skill, there is no point at which pornography becomes appropriate.

As parents we need to decide for our families what's appropriate for us. If we don't, others will. Media companies, school teachers, and our kids' friends will set the bar wherever they want to. Maybe you're unsure if you have the right to decide what should be classified as pornography. Don't be unsure. If you don't decide, others will decide for you. Yes, what you decide is inappropriate in your family may offend someone out there. Maybe your kids are going to whine or stare at you in horror. It's okay. Setting boundaries is part of parenting. When I'm watching TV or movies to this day, I know exactly what my mom would say about anything that comes onto the screen. Because as a child and something would come on that was inappropriate she would tell us so, and explain why. And often it would get turned off. You have that power.

Happy Safer Internet Day. Along with all those other important online safety ideas, don't forget about pornography. Set boundaries. Talk to your kids. Decide what's inappropriate for your family and don't let anyone decide for you.