Overcoming the Scary Web.








The heart of my Mozilla Webmaker contribution,  has a lot to do with being parent to three young girls (3, 8, 10) on the cusp of internet exploration(actually my 10 year old is already on DIY.org regularly) . We want our daughters to grow into independent creative, compassionate, empowered  and responsible people – safely. A daunting task in a world where everyone is connected and digital literacy programs are missing.

This weekend, I read this article on childhood viewing of pornography .  It  terrified me and it should every parent.  I’m  most horrified at the prospect, that by simply having a Facebook account, my children could be exposed to photos of pornography, violence and content meant to ‘shock”.   It’s really, really scary that the web is be used to intimidate, humiliate, traumatize and degrade a generation of children who are sometimes just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like many this past week, I was also captivated and moved by  Louis CK’s viral video describing cell phone addiction as a social plague –  he describes how dependency on devices for social interaction is a vote against human empathy. The realization that my children could  ‘try out bullying’, and never receive the critical social feedback that ‘in person provides’ about that being wrong – was an upsetting truth.

I have moments where I want to hide my children away –  somehow barricade them from the almost seeming destiny of ‘being ruined by internet’, but the reality is that I, like all parents need to work digital literacy practices into my daily parenting-routine., and that’s means a whole lot more than setting parental controls. As a communities, we need to acknowledge and take action together.

Schools need to address the changing social structure the web is providing, because right now children are learning without us.  I believe, very very much that digital literacy,  or actually the lack of  this literacy  is a crisis for kids, for parents and teachers.  I think efforts to enforce vendor responsibility are noble, but a bunch of grown-ups telling another bunch of grown-ups how to structure proprietary websites, is of far less value in my opinion than involving youth in the conversation. I think Webmaker can     empower youth to influence and invent positive change through the realization the web is theirs to make, not just have thrown at them.

The Web I know and love is not scary. The Web is a magical collaborative space where innovation and self-expression are good things; where problems are solved, and really, really human-experiences and kindness are magnified to inspire millions. I want to save this, as much as I want to solve that. Mozilla’s work turning a generation of consumers into makers – is one of the few guiding lights I’m aware of, and  why I throw my whole heart into it;  clinging.  I want my kids to know this Web – to play with it, to make  and invent stuff . I want my girls to recognize the positive power and influence they can bring to the Web, and not see it as something that’s done to them.

In my opinion every parent should walk into their child’s school and ask “Why are all programs involving online etiquette  done without ever touching a computer?”.  “Why are my kids learning how to format a Word Document, but not learning what a Web page is made of?”, “Why are all computer-based learning opportunities focused on consuming and using”?   Consider social media sandboxes, for school communication – just get on this thing.  Talk to kids. Start the conversation now, because without us kids are just logging in and ‘winging it’.

This conversation actually helped me explain to friends what I do with Mozilla, why I’m involved why it’s not just teaching kids to code and I saw a bunch of lights go on.   And I’ve been trying to explain this for a while. Then, in a waterfall I started to hear stories about kids online, watching porn (age 12), playing video games at school all lunch hour (age 11), ‘accidentally’ seeing violent images (age 9). – and I felt happy at least that these media stories are starting conversations.


When I talk to youth organizations about Webmaker, one of the things I get asked for most are cyber-safety Hacktivities, and so Dumitru and I are working on that.


Image Credit : Zuzkins