My 2 And A Half Year Old Won T Talk Defending Facebook – A Generation Y Response to Internet-Based Parental Paranoia

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Defending Facebook – A Generation Y Response to Internet-Based Parental Paranoia

Today, between the fifth and fiftieth time I check my Facebook profile, I know the inevitable will come. I no longer have the “You’ve Got Mail” interjection of my AOL-obsessed youth to alert me of its arrival, and yet I know it will surely be there. Today my mom is going to email me an article about how Facebook and the Internet are out to destroy my love life, eyesight, job prospects, or muscle tone. Obedient daughter, I always scan the articles, but I usually get angry at the last period.

Unlike my mother, I grew up with the Internet. I know there was a time in my life when we didn’t have a computer but I don’t remember and I don’t care. I’ve always been taught to respect my elders, but having a middle-aged stranger tell me that Facebook is looking for me is a lot like having a car salesman drill my teeth. Not that I don’t value article opinions. But, I consider my own truths on the Internet to be self-evident.

My Generation Y Mini-Manifesto

1. I know I spend too much time online. Between Facebook (the internet version of crack cocaine) and the wonders of Google/gmail, I am the queen of procrastination. I think it even says it under “Jobs” on my Facebook profile.

2. Everyone in Generation Y (or whatever they label us) knows the dangers of the Internet. We grow up constantly reminded that there is a pedophile in every chat room (although we all visit them anyway). We, unlike previous generations, can spot credit card fraud, MySpace hackers, and sick audio files from miles away. We navigate smart.

3. Most of us know when to say “when.” However, I do acknowledge the validity of the following widely circulated advice (redacted a bit here, for realism’s sake). If you’re applying for college or a job, don’t have “smoking blunts” as your MySpace interest. If you’re on a sports team, don’t call your coach a “fat fascist” on your blog. And, for Pete’s sake (literally, for us Petes’ daughters), no one needs to see those photos of you passed out in the bathtub surrounded by beer cans. The video should probably be off YouTube as well.

High School MySpace and Other Fears

I worry about the next generation (which makes me feel incredibly old). The tragic story of thirteen-year-old Megan Meier has been talked about a lot in the bars and coffee shops I frequent. In case you missed it on Anderson Cooper, Megan hanged herself after alleged intense harassment by a MySpace Romeo gone bad. The “boyfriend” turned out to be a hoax created by a street family. Cyberbullying is very real and has exactly the same painful effects as repeated public humiliation at school.

However, I try to focus on the big picture. On the other hand, many children who feel completely isolated are making friends online who actually exist and are not pedophiles in disguise. If no one is listening, they can blog. If they have questions they can’t ask dad, they can get advice on a forum. If your best friend moves to the other side of the world, good old Facebook is there to keep you up to date. I know what my friend from London had for lunch today. It’s not important, but it’s nice to feel connected. The statistics speak for themselves. According to studies conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the Harris Interactive YouthQuery survey, 25% of girls aged 15 to 17 blog, 26% think the Internet helps them deal with serious life problems, and 86% believe the Internet improves quality of your life. their schoolwork.

MyScoop

I love the internet. I say it with pride. I’m going to shout it from the rooftops, or at least on my blogspot. Its only flaw is that it doesn’t self-promote well. (But is it really necessary?) I searched the Internet for an article about the positive ways the Internet is changing the world and couldn’t find a single one. Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Good advice. So I started compiling a list for everyone to see. I can’t hope to show you the whole truth of the Internet, it’s too vast, but I can try to open your eyes to some wonderful possibilities.

Half truth: Facebook, MySpace and other networking sites are a dangerous waste of time.

MyScoop

Yes, you can lose a job or a bit of self-esteem over photos posted on Facebook. Yes, MySpace has a lot of hackers. But, social interaction is invaluable. Most college students would rather spend their last term on a packet of Ramen noodles than a stamp. That way, you can have your Ramen and blog about it too. These sites also keep users updated and engaged in current topics and events. Yes, there are several user groups dedicated to beer, but there are others focused on everything from supporting political candidates to ending the crisis in Darfur to spreading advice on how to combat global warming. Many of these groups have 20,000 members and are constantly growing.

Half-Truth: The Internet Is Killing Small Businesses.

MyScoop

Yes, certain astronomically large websites and web services have caused the financial ruin of local bookstores and record stores. But, there are other sites that offer small businesses and artists ways to reach much larger product markets than ever before. For example, my personal favorite, http://www.etsy.com. In its own words, Etsy is “an online marketplace for buying and selling all things handmade.” When they say “all things,” they’re not kidding. Browsing etsy.com is like having your own private craft fair/art gallery. I highly recommend visiting on a day when you are convinced that everything has been done before. The creativity and craftsmanship you’ll find there is amazing and usually profitable.

Half-Truth: Nothing good ever came from hours of web browsing.

MyScoop

Today, the search engine is a vital part of everyday life. Now there’s a way to make your clicks count. GoodSearch.com is making charitable giving easier than ever. Every time you search through Yahoo!’s engine, a penny is donated to the charity of your choice (about 24,000 in the end). According to Fortune magazine, “If 500 followers pledge to raise money for a school and each one searches the web five times a day, that’s $9,125 a year.” All at no cost to the person browsing. Never before has a popular procrastination tool done so well.

Half-Truth: The internet breeds lazy couch potatoes.

MyScoop

Admittedly, you’re not going to burn calories playing Snood or taking those pesky online quizzes. However, the Internet can only provide the information and support you need to reach your fitness goals. A relatively new megatrend, Sparkpeople.com, is doing just that. Basically, SparkPeople is like MySpace for dieters. Everyone receives a profile where they state their fitness goals. Members form teams (think: support groups) and can opt to receive daily emails with exercises, recipes and words of encouragement. The site also features a calorie counter and fitness tracker. And, it works! According to the website, members have lost nearly four million pounds to date.

The digital divide doesn’t have to tear your family in two. As with most family matters, a compromise is usually best. Educate your children about the dangers of the Internet. Ask them what kinds of online activities they enjoy and who their cyber friends are. Then, in turn, let them educate you. Watch your favorite YouTube videos, read your favorite e-zines, learn a thing or two. If you need a place to start, I highly recommend the sites mentioned above. You will find that the Internet is a wonderland for people of all ages. I could recommend a lot more, but my thirteen-year-old cousin just sent me a video on YouTube. I know it won’t do it for my style, but it makes me feel “la moda”.

Happy browsing!

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