How Dangerous Is the Internet for Children?

A few years ago, a parenting magazine asked me to write an article about the dangers that children face when they go online. As it turns out, I was the wrong author for the article they had in mind.The editor was deeply disappointed by my initial draft. Its chief message was this: “Sure, there are dangers. But they’re hugely overhyped by the media. The tales of pedophiles luring children out of their homes are like plane crashes: they happen extremely rarely, but when they do, they make headlines everywhere. The Internet is just another facet of socialization for the new generation; as always, common sense and a level head are the best safeguards.”My editor, however, was looking for something more sensational. He asked, for example, if I could dig up an opening anecdote about, say, an eight-year-old getting killed by a chat-room stalker. But after days of research — and yes, I actually looked at the Google results past the first page — I could not find a single example of a preteen getting abducted and murdered by an Internet predator.So the editor sent me the contact information for several parents of young children with Internet horror stories, and suggested that I interview them. One woman, for example, told me that she became hysterical when her eight-year-old stumbled onto a pornographic photo. She told me that she literally dove for the computer, crashing over a chair, yanking out the power cord and then rushing her daughter outside.You know what? I think that far more damage was done to that child by her mother’s reaction than by the dirty picture.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/28/technology/personaltech/28pogue-email.html

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