The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all. A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem. The findings ran counter to popular perceptions of online dangers as reinforced by depictions in the news media like NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series. One attorney general was quick to criticize the group’s report. This was a bunch of Attorneys General, people who face the electorate every few years (or are appointed by the Governors, in a few cases).
The Internet is a public space, and like any public space it is not without danger. But the scare stories are overhyped as the NYT story based on a USD 50 million research project shows: Good news for worried parents: All those hours their teenagers spend socializing on the Internet are not a bad thing, according to a new study by the MacArthur Foundation. “It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages,” said Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, “Living and Learning With New Media.” “But their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.
We’ve covered the progress of the OLPC from time to time. The person leading the effort in China and South East Asia is an old and good friend, Tony Wong. By now, Mr. Negroponte insists, enough of these learning machines are in the hands of children in the developing world to see results. The children, from 6 to 12 years old, are more passionate about learning and educators are reporting fewer problems with discipline and truancy.
In a TV interview yesterday, I said that the new anti-sharing and certificate-carrying rules promulgated by the TRC would affect the poor disproportionately, because the rich could buy their children phones, while sharing was the only option for most Sri Lankans. Indeed, a special package for parents wanting to be in touch with their children in these uncertain times has been just announced (below). But the question that a commenter raised on the other discussion thread is whether it is any longer possible to buy a mobile for your own child. If a National ID is required to own a SIM, and the child does not have a NIC, it seems to follow that the child cannot have a mobile. Has anyone studied the ramifications of the rule before running press notices?