Do you remember when you were a kid? When I was a kid there was no internet of any kind. I got most of my prepubesent entertainment from being outside, riding my bike, catching bugs and playing sports, I was rarely in the house.
My daughter likes to play on her computer, doing stop-motion animations and rarely plays any sports. I find girls to be gentler and definitely smarter than young boys, just the way it is guys. They mature faster and I’m not entirely sure if we ever really catch up, I’m still trying to figure that one out…I’ll keep you posted. But even young boys these days stay at home play on thier Xbox or PS4. What about baseball and street hockey?
Some of the more dangerous things in my youth are what my friends and I bonded over and made me the person I am today. When I was a kid you acted first and worried about the consequences later, you got most of your confidence from ignorance. This didn’t always work out so good, stitches were just part of growing up. You would stick up for your buddy only to realize there was four of them to the two of you. Or you would take the jump with your bike in the construction zone, not checking the landing area first (that’s always good for a few stitches). Maybe it was throwing snowballs at cars without a well thought out escape route. All innocent kids stuff, nothing serious but a potential to get hurt or in a bit of trouble.
These days kids tend to hurt each other psychologically, from cyber bullying to internet shaming. It is a way for young people to be mean anonymously or beat someone down in groups. Think gossip times a thousand, or Lord of the flies on steroids. Imagine farting in class, but someone was filming it on their iPhone and uploaded it YouTube, and before you even have time to blush, the whole school knows. The teacher knows and your mom has liked it already and shared it with all your relatives. My daughter isn’t on Facebook or twitter, but she does play a lot of online multiplayer games. We try to keep track of where and what she is playing, but she is a good girl and knows what to do and say online. But you can’t protect them from everything.
One day she was playing Minecraft on some server. She had built a banner shop with banners of flags from all over the world. She had worked hard and spent a lot of time on it. I was in the loft and heard her getting upset in her room, she was saying “No, no, no, why would you do that?” I went to check on her. I came in just in time to see a character on the screen systematically tearing down and trashing her banner shop, she was sending him messages in game asking why? (I guess he had an admin code or cheat code that would allow him to destroy things in the game). She looked at me to do something, I moved her out of the driver seat and sat down at the keyboard ready to tear this punk a new one. I cracked my knuckles and got ready to type a tirade of obscenities and insults at this cyber-vandal. In my protective parental instinctual rage (no one messes with my daughter) I had a small but clear moment. If I swear at this kid, I will get my daughter kicked off the server. I then thought, but he made her cry! I’ll make him cry with a clean well aimed attack at his mother or something along those lines. No go, it was under my daughters character name, same thing applies, abuse to other characters and all that will get you booted. I felt helpless as this little shit-head walked over and stood right in front of me. “Good Job” I typed, no realizing this cretin probably won’t get the sarcasm in my words. I was furious and helpless at the same time. I have his username and thought I would put it in this blog to let others more talented at hacking take a crack at him but my daughter and I got over it, and we both learned something. Some people are builders and others are destroyers. I think in this day and age there are too many destroyers and the internet gives you that anonymity to be a destroyer without consequences. People used to care what others thought of them, now they just want to see the world burn and to be famous for doing it.
But I digress, I’m being an old curmudgeon. Let’s be realistic. If you presented my 10 year old self with a box that was a library, arcade, playboy, encyclopedia, etc. I would never leave the house ever again. I would have carpal tunnel, sleep deprivation and malnutrition all within a week. I would use my anonymity to do things I couldn’t get away with in the real world and who doesn’t want to be famous or loved by millions. It’s a slippery slope and who knows how a 10 year old me would react. So I understand kids, I too can feel the power of being connected but faceless, of being anonymous but omnipresent, it’s intoxicating and very appealing. But has this thing called the internet jaded and hardened us, are we less capable of connecting with people because of it, maybe, but I think it is a respect problem. They don’t know any better and we don’t take the time to teach them, maybe it’s because we don’t understand. Maybe this is something they will teach their kids.
What I’m saying is we may have been reckless when we were younger, but it was to ourselves, at least my generation anyways. They use the power of social media for evil and not for good and as an aging father in a young persons world it gets harder and harder to protect my girl from these jerks. Like I said before, we have taught her well and I can only hope she navigates this dangerous youth well, that she leaps over the pitfalls and avoids the banner haters. Because I’m sure it will only get more difficult, more complicated and way out of my sphere of experience. I have to let her find her own way, I may not understand it, but I will always be there to protect her, I just have to do better than “Good Job.” Stay safe.