When I was about 8-years-old I was walking home from my bus stop after school and a car stopped beside me. A man opened the door and offered me candy. In my mind I knew better, but like a typical kid I wanted the candy and walked towards the car. As I approached the car the door opened, and the man reached his hand out to grab me.
Does this sound like an urban legend?
It might, but it did actually happen to me. Luckily my parents had taught me stranger-danger. That and I was also a pretty tough kid. I slammed the car door (I think I may have crushed his hand), and ran home. If things had gone differently I may not be here tonight typing this post. I get chills thinking about it–especially now that I am a mom.
I am living proof that stranger-danger is real, but you don’t need me to tell you that. The news inundates us with stories of stranger-danger even though statistics tell us that most offenses to children are committed by someone who is not a stranger but is in fact someone close to the child.
What I am really here to say is that it’s important to educate children so that they can make smart decisions in any circumstance.
Congress is considering a bill that would bar children who use computers in public libraries from accessing Facebook and other social networking websites without parental permission.
This has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard recently.
First, how will we define “other social networking websites” when pretty much every site is becoming a social networking site? Has anyone in Congress heard of Web 2.0?
Second, how does this teach children to think for themselves and make smart choices? We cannot block every site where a predator could be lurking just as we cannot place children in a bubble when we send them out the door to school every day.
As librarians and library staff we have to advocate for educating our public officials, the media, parents, and children about the real dangers of the Internet – ignorance.
If you haven’t yet take a look at the ALA Libraries & the Internet Toolkit. Most of the content is dated 2003, but it is still relevant.