Since I was a child, the Internet has been portrayed to me as a scary, evil thing that will convince me it’s a friend and then kidnap me and murder me.
If you think I’m exaggerating, I’m genuinely not. I’ve been warned against it with the fear that creepy old men will impersonate someone my age, convince me to meet them and then take me from my family never to return. Growing up in this generation, our parents are wildly afraid of what they don’t know and what their children know better than them – the big bad Interwebs.
Here’s an important fact people seem to forget: It’s not that dangerous. At all. Not even close.
There’s really no need to underestimate your child – they can tell who’s actually a 16 year old girl who has the same interests as them and who’s a 40 year old man who has no idea about anything they’re saying. They will not fall into the arms of a predator through the Internet because they can tell creepy behaviour from a mile away.
Quite on the contrary, my experience with the Internet has been 90% good and perhaps 10% bad.
I’ve found a community that understands me, educates me and brings out a more confident, worldly Ruthy – not a bunch of perverts asking me for nude photos. I’ve learned so much on topics like sexism, racism, rape culture, TV shows and current affairs that school seems like such a pointless endeavour when I have this endless resource of information – in words I can understand – at my fingertips.
I’m the first to admit, however, it has its downsides.
People who aren’t so nice use the Internet to indoctrinate others and, on occasion, cause emotional harm to people via anonymous forums. Although this makes up a small percentage of the Internet population, the impact they can have is quite large.
Warning kids off the Internet as a whole reminds me of the failing abstinence education. If you tell a child not to do something under any circumstances, they’ll want to do it even more, whereas if you actually teach them how to navigate it safely and make sure they won’t be reprimanded for asking questions on topics they found on the Internet, you’ll find it becomes a much safer environment for them. Of course it’s a given that in this, we must stress the importance of not abusing the Internet and being rude or harmful in any way on it.
The Internet is a truly beautiful place if you look at it truthfully. It gives people the opportunity to connect with others of similar or different opinions and grow from their experiences in the cyber world.