I listened to the mom explain why she felt that good parents should not allow their children on the internet.
She made some good points. Kids don’t always grasp that what they put out there is going to be seen by the world. Forever. And they can be seriously impacted when someone else says something hurtful towards them, especially when others chime in to support their mean, bullying behaviour.
But then I remembered something that a teacher friend of mine once told me.
“We don’t take away pencils from children when they write something hurtful or inappropriate.”
This simple statement was such an “a-ha!” moment for me. I had never once heard of a child being given a consequence of not being able to have pencils for a week. I all my years of working with kids, the idea of grounding a child from the use of writing utensils has never once even crossed my mind.
The tool is not the problem. It’s how people use the tool. And I do worry sometimes that instead of focusing on what people are doing, we instead focus on whether or not the internet is a good or bad thing.
Kids need to understand the impact of what they do on the internet – both for themselves and for others. And they need to know how to handle mean behaviour, whatever form that might take. While those nasty online messages are certainly more far-reaching and permanent than were the scribbled notes that were passed around the classroom back in my day, they all hurt, nonetheless.
And does taking away access to the internet do anything to help kids to understand all this?