February 5 was Safer Internet Day, the 10th one to be exact.

Safer Internet Day was organized in Europe by Insafe, a network of awareness centersthat promote safe and responsible use of the Internet and mobile electronic devices to young people. Safer Internet Day is co-funded by the European Union, and has grown to become an international effort, with companies, organizations and people across the world take part.

Generally I would look to Europe for good example of food, scenery, art, music and architecture, and then probably leave it there. But, hat-tip to the continent’s collective entities for employing concern and action for the safety of young people.

Clearly, the Internet is a double-edged sword. Infinite source of information, communication tools and entertainment, which boosts our quality of life; or bottomless pit of sleaze, cheese, and inane content, bereft with black holes that gobble up our time, not to mention the theft and predation. It depends on the user.

Consider some U.S. stats provided by NetSmartz Workshop, a program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children:

  • 93% of teens (12-17) go online
  • Of the children (0-5) who use the Internet, 80% use it at least once a week
  • 75% of teens (12-17) have cell phones
  • On average, texting teens (12-17) send and receive 1500 text messages a month
  • 1 in 3 teens (12-17) have experienced online harassment
  • 97% of teens (12-17) play computer, web, portable, or console games
  • 27% of teens (12-17) play games with people they don’t know online
  • 73% of teens (12-17) have profiles on social networking sites

The numbers go on and on, and they get scary when pertaining to the specifics of predators. This is because whether in real life or virtual reality, the predators go where the kids are.

No one is surprised by the pervasiveness of the Internet with our young people, and really, I was thinking some of those NetSmartz numbers looked somewhat low.

Then there’s the specter of how easily the Internet is used by kids when they want to be awful to one another.

The Rome Reports news agency said that the NGO Intermedia Social Innovation began collaborating in 2011 with the European Commission to create awareness and work to stop cyber violence.

Intermedia Social Innovation surveyed 7,000 teenagers in Spain and Italy, and over 55-percent said they accept cyber violence as a legitimate tool.

The concept of being bullied in the schoolyard or hallway has long since become immeasurably magnified, with the accompanying damage augmented just as much to boot.

The European Commission’s website states that many young children in Europe say there are not enough good things for kids their age to do online. (Out of the mouths of babes?)

The Safer Internet Day initiative appears to be about promoting quality online content,helping young people learn, and providing them the skills and tools for using the Internet safely and responsibly.

Big Brother and the Free Speech slippery slope aside, there is something here that does need addressing, and on a level beyond a, “We support this effort” sentiment.

 My thought here is that things begin at home, as all things should.

Something that comes to my mind for me these days is that I have yet to see the genuine need for a child to have a smart phone. Communication tools? Absolutely. Internet access, on a mobile device, neither of which are cheap? Not so much. The day a need is demonstrated, I’ll change my mind.

Conversation and human interaction are deteriorating, people are imposing their personal conversations on strangers while speaking on cell phones in public, except when they’re ignoring people they do know in their company in favor whomever they’re texting just that second. As we consume more and more gadgets, or perhaps as they consume us, I still don’t believe whatever is thought to be so pressing that we need to know it right then, is more often than not of that much consequence, certainly in the case of a child.

That may sound like futile denial of, “just the way it is,” since, “everybody’s doing it.”

That’s fine. I’ll stay up on the bridge when everyone jumps off it as well.

Because, regardless of the area of technology, I am continually amazed at the fact that there are people (okay, young people) who can run circles others (okay fine, somenot-so-young people) in the operation of technology, yet they still cannot grasp the implications of putting personal information, good, bad and everything in between, out into cyberspace, with implications as long-lasting as the technology appears to be.

They command all this stuff like toys, but yet they have not learned that some of the ways many of them use it could ruin their lives.

In any event, it needs to be at least half as much a priority for us to be educated about what our children are doing with that fancy and fun little piece of equipment we gave them, as it is for us to come up with the money to purchase it for them in the first place.

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