Local headline news today:
"Online romance ends in an arrest when Lancaster girl text messages for help" (Buffalo News). This topic has been on my mind since reading yh's blog post "stop blaming myspace". About 3 years ago, FBI held informational meetings at our school district to talk to staff and parents about the dangers of the internet for teens. I hate to admit how behind the times I was - that was the first time I really saw myspace pages (projected on large screen from computer monitor). FBI gave example after example of young people in our area who met total strangers online and then in person. I walked away from the meeting horrified, terrified. (See FBI Parent Guide to Internet Safety.)
I grew up WAY before the internet and had VERY strict parents. Here's my perspective as parent now of 6 year old girl. The whole point of raising a child is to help (push, drag, whatever) her into independence. The toddler needs constant, vigilant supervision in any room of the house. The 6 year old does not, hurray! I limit the 6 year old's choices of TV channels/shows, movies. When will I stop doing that, and by what degrees? What are the points in between??? When should she be allowed to watch MTV? When should I put a TV in her own room? When should I give her a mobile phone to use to call us, and then to call her friends? When should she have her own computer, set up in her own room? (According to the FBI agent at the informational meeting I attended, DON'T allow it! Keep the computer in a common area.) Doesn't all this depend on the kid, the parents, other family, friends, any number of unique circumstances?
Parenting is a puzzle that no one else can tell you how to solve. If the puzzle works out, others compliment you (and your in-laws think the child was just born perfect), even though no one really knows how the puzzle was solved (i.e. nature vs. nurture). If the puzzle does NOT work out, there are countless people pointing fingers, second guessing, judging (yeah, I do it, too).
Bottom line: Forget blame and fault. Just tell me what to do to protect children and foil predators. For my students, I remind them over and over to be careful online, to not trust strangers no matter what they say, to inform their parents of their online activities (SERIOUSLY). I'm careful about assignments with online components, to explain safety, to inform parents. But there's only one child I can follow home and monitor, and she's only 6, and I really DON'T know how I'll monitor her when she's 12. And even if she never falls prey online or otherwise, I still can't claim our example as THE single parenting solution. There never is. So when I hear "blame the parents" when children fall prey, I'm doubtful. That's all.
Update: please read and participate in comment discussion. Also new post from yh on this topic.