Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Soapbox Spencer: Young Bloggers

When I sat down this morning to eat my breakfast (two pieces of toast with peanut butter and a glass of Bolthouse Farms Mocha Cappuccino in case you were wondering) an article entitled "Young bloggers prompt safety worries" obviously caught my attention.

I barely made it to the second column of the article before I knew what I would be writing about here today.

The article - if you chose not to read it yourself before proceeding here - talks about young girls and the concerns that parents and social watchdogs have over the content they post on their blogs, citing two younger females interested in fashion who post pictures of themselves in their designs on their blogs, Style Rookie and The Fashion Void That Is DC.

In the AP article, they question the safety of Tavi Gevinson, the 12-year-old blogger cum fashion designer responsible for Style Rookie, posting pictures of herself in her creations, what with all the pervy bastards out there and all.

While I completely agree that there are a lot of pervy bastards out there who could potentially find a 12-year-old in homemade designs appealing, it's some of the choice quotes from the piece that had me seething.

Parry Aftab, a lawyer who heads the online protection site delivers this gem:

Parents have no idea what their kids are doing online. Most parents have no idea what a blog is.

Uh, isn't it your job as a parent to know what your kid is doing?

Maybe it's just me, but I'm pretty sure if my kids (when I have them) are spending copious amounts of time hunkered down in front of the computer, I'm going to be spending copious amounts of time hunkered down in front of the computer seeing what they're up to.

In contrast, Tavi's dad Steve, a high-school English teacher, had no clue what his daughter was up to until she was asked to be in a New York Times magazine story about blogging. He was generous enough to drop the Parent of the Year Award Winning "I wasn't terribly interested in seeing it."

Can we please give Steve Gevinson a round of applause? Way to go, Steve... douchebag!

I know times are different now with single parent homes and both parents working and blah blah blah blah blah, but taking an active role in your kids lives is one of those absolutes of parenting, no? You can't pawn off the fact that you have no idea what your kids are into and up to because you worked a long day at the office. Suck it up and be involved.

Quality Quote #2 comes from Addie Swartz, CEO of B-tween Productions and mother of two teenage daughters, who said, "I feel that it's not safe to have a child who's 12 or 13 have a blog."

Dear Ms. Swartz,

Below is a brief list of things far more potentially dangerous than a 12 or 13 year old having a blog:

Knives, guns, sharks, bears, second-hand smoke, cars, that bottle of drain cleaner under your sink, fast food, UV Rays, Anderson Silva, coming across the middle on Brian Urlacher, anything attempted by the cast of Jackass, listening to Celine Dion for excessive amounts of time, shopping on Christmas Eve and naming your child Hubert or Edna.

Need I continue?

Kindest Regards,

It's a blog for chrissakes!

If you're involved in the kid's life, raise them to know what is acceptable and not acceptable, talk with them intelligently about things of this nature and monitor their posts, what is the problem?

You do your job to make sure they aren't posting scantily clad pictures or telling the world that you and the mister head out of town every third weekend leaving them all alone in the house and your fears are quashed.

I know kids are always going to do things behind their parents backs - it's part of being a kid - but I also know that telling them things they can't do only makes them do it more, while explaining why something isn't allowed builds understanding and acceptance, even when it's coupled with the requisite "I Hate You," "You're SO Mean," or "Janie's Mom Let's Her Do It!"

And why doesn't Ms. Swartz think it's safe for tween-age girls to have blogs? The potential negative comments they might receive, what with girls being so impressionable, especially in that age group.

Hi Addie,

It's Spencer again.

Do you honestly believe that negative comments are restricted to blogs and the Internet?

Kids sling negativity everywhere - at school, in extra-curricular activities, sports teams, the mall - not just on these ever-so-harmful blogs you're worried about and this is coming from a guy who receives numerous comments a month slagging me and my existence in this world.

Besides, if you take my advice from Letter #1, you shouldn't really have any serious concerns on this front, since you'll be monitoring the situation and able to discuss any nasty comments with your kids up front.

Keep in touch,

The bottom line, at least to me, is this:

Work with your children so that they know what is acceptable and what isn't acceptable.

Be involved in their lives, regardless of how busy your own is and how much you don't have an interest in fashion design, Yu-Gi-Oh or whatever else they are into.

Monitor their activities - they are your kids and your responsibility. If you know what they are doing, you just might be able to eliminate some harm before it ever happens.

Remember that you were a kid once too and despite all the mean and horrible things some people undoubtedly said to you on the phone, playground or walking down the street, you turned out okay... you're kids will too.

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That's what I got. Lemme know what you think.

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