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Helping parents understand the Net

A reader writes: Provide parents with the ability to log who our children instant message, e-mail and chat with.


Helping parents understand the Net

In response to the May 24 Perspectives column by John Dickinson, "Blaming the Net for a young girl's murder":

While I agree with your comment that parenting cannot be automated or legislated, technology can provide tools that assist us. The question is not "Is the Net to blame?" but "Did it help or hinder?"

If a stranger approaches my child on the sidewalk in front of my house, they are not anonymous. I can follow them if they are walking, their vehicle has a license-plate number, they can be identified by their face and their clothes. Other people are likely to witness the encounter. If the stranger approaches my child in North Carolina, they cannot instantly disappear to California.

The same cannot be said for an online encounter. The average person can not easily "follow" someone who has approached a child online. Their identity, location and other characteristics are not obvious. Their text looks like anyone else's text on the screen. Likewise, very few, if any, people will "witness" the encounter, and the only parental method of monitoring is reading over the shoulder.

There are plenty of caveats. The stranger could wear a mask or AOL's security specialists could track the chat room participation, but in general we have allowed a large number of people to be much more anonymous.

At the least, provide parents with the ability to log who our children instant message, e-mail and chat with. Even the phone company will provide an itemized phone list.

Greg Kranz
Harrisburg, Pa.



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