Welcome to the Internet (sadly)

So as you can see, I did not make it to the other two posts I had planned for today. I decided to spend some time with my nephew instead. We built block towers to break down and raced cars around the table. It was a grand time. But as always, my mind is constantly looking for new ideas to turn into post topics for this blog. After he departed, I started poking around through some social media sites and ran upon a conversation that started as a joke but piqued my interest.

The conversation started off with the joke frequently seen lately about why 2020 parents are afraid to leave their kids home alone, yet in the 80’s and 90’s, it was perfectly fine. It was not perfectly fine then, but that is a different road we will travel in the future.

I commented that part of the problem is 99% Internet coverage and that it could be a dangerous place. And you know what happened? The only reactions were laughs.

Does this bother me as a person? Not anymore. Does it bother me as a parent that raised three kids through the Internet boom? Yes, very much so.

I first logged onto the Internet around 1995. There were no web browsers, no instant messengers, no streaming video. Nothing except a text terminal and a connection to irc.colorado.edu, where, for the most part, I did nothing but download pirated software. But I knew where I could download the anarchist cookbook and plans to build a hydrogen bomb, which you can still find today much easier.

Back then, these were more or less novelty things. You downloaded it and then told all your friends, look, I know how to build a bomb or know how to hack a phonecard, or if you were slightly crazy, start announcing all of the government systems you had found. But most of the time, it was for fun and faded in a few days. Because we knew what we were getting into and the consequences of getting caught. But it was still dangerous that we had access to all of those things.

Twenty-five years and over 1 billion people later, the game has changed. Everyone is on the Internet, all children and the predators that want to go after them. The human trafficking, the porn, the availability of drugs around every corner. Do you happen to know what Tor is? I bet your kids do.

There is a device in every hand, in every house, around every corner. If you are going to sit back without care and think your child is immune, let me give you a reality check. They are vulnerable, and as long as they are on the Internet alone, they always will be.

I was an ISP system administrator for near 20 years. If you had seen what I have seen go through those servers, you might think twice about your position on this. Not to mention the frequent subpoenas related to human trafficking and under-age pornography that we fielded. Nothing has changed. If anything, it has gotten worse as bandwidth and device availability have increased.

If you say, not my kid, you are part of the problem, and at some point in the future, you will point your finger at society and say, “you ruined my child”. Where that will partially be true because of the Internet effect, the other part would be directly on you for not watching where they go and what they do while on the Internet.

We always knew where our kids were going on the Internet. None of them had a phone until they were in their late teens, and they all shared one computer that my wife and I could access at all times. Did we catch them going to places they shouldn’t? Yes, a few times. But taking away the computer for a month each time solved that in a short while.

If you want to go the other route and say my kids would never do those things or go to those places, I commend you for raising an awesome child. But you have to remember that in most cases of human trafficking, abduction, rape, and other vile things, your child is not normally the one who makes first contact. In many cases, they will hide it from you. There are multiple reasons for this, promises from the abductor, lies from the abductor, affection from the abductor, shame from the abductor, and so on, anything to get your child to do what they want them to do. And sadly, you may never know about it until it is too late.

Children are impressionable. Being left alone to their own devices all day makes it even more so. I do not have to explain this again. The research has already been done.

So go ahead and laugh about a serious answer to a serious problem. If you think you are immune, you are sadly mistaken. Your problem could be living right next door or in another country. They are everywhere, waiting patiently.

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