Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Social Networking and Sex

Yeah that's right!! There's a connection. Social Networking and Sex. There you go.... it's in your face. You can't deny it. The connection is fully there! God love the queen an' all of that in'it?

I was reading out an email I sent to a mailing list to a friend and he asked me if it was a blog post. I'm sitting there... well... it wasn't... yet... but it should be. It's a really in your face kind of issue and one that should be talked about a bit more.

Here it is. Although I have this thing about social networking, kids don't. The social network's terms and conditions don't mean jack to the kids. The Internet is an Anonymous (We are anonymous) playground in which case, some fat 50 year old man can be a 13 year old lithe girl. As scary as THAT is, a 7 year old can be a 25 year old on the Internet. What harm could you be doing to a young psyche because you're unaware it's a young psyche, not a developed 25 year old?

Let that sink in for a second. The terms of service for just about EVERY social networking service is that you must be 13 years old to use the service. To me, even that's a little young. And social networking is still a relatively new enough phenomena that almost all people have no idea how to protect themselves. What's worse than not being able to protect ourselves? It's not being able to protect our children.

So I think we need to change our own attitudes. Sex happens. It's a natural part of life. We seem to spend an awful lot of energy protecting our kids from it (assuming we follow American puritan norms) but we know our kids eventually do it.

So we need to talk about things like protecting them from STD's, unplanned pregnancy and emotional turmoil etc. Abstaining is the best preventative method. But we know it's going to happen so knowing something about condoms - how they work, choosing something with a spermicide is even better etc. - is generally a good thing (unless of course we're going to bury our heads in the sand and rely solely on abstaining - ask Sarah Palin how well that went with her daughter).

Social networking is much the same. As educators, we need to actively discourage the use of social networking at a young age (it annoys me that social networking for youths is appearing about the place as we need to focus more on "how do I keep myself safe?" over "how do I do it?" at this stage). If they're going to do it anyway... What impression do they give of themselves? e.g. it's not uncommon for employers to look at a digital footprint while culling down applicants for a job. Who do they interact with and how? e.g. if the medium is the message, how are they coming across? Basically, how do they keep themselves safe?

On the other hand... where social networking is completely unlike sex - you can see the kids doing it and not get angry. Instead, ask questions around whether they're aware of the terms of use (and if they lie about their age to extremes, ask "adult" questions - i.e. do you have any kids?). Ask to see what they're writing and apply social norms (bullying, respect etc.). In other words, we can guide them through it...

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