The myth of online predators (and a gramar tangent)

I’m posting this here to remind me that it’s something I need to include in some readings for ENGL 516 about social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook and the like: “Questioning the Notion of Online Predators” from PBS Teachers, though it has been available in a lot of other places too. I heard an interview with the study mentioned in this post; basically, the researchers found (via what I assume was an examination of the records of sex crimes involving the internet and sex crimes prior to it) is that this idea of a bunch of dirty old men posing as teenagers online just isn’t so, that there is a slight decrease in these sorts of pedaphile crimes relative to the past, etc., etc.– in short, that this stuff is basically a media myth.

And yet, it persists, the same as the myth about razor blades in apples and pins in candy bars at Halloween, and the same as static grammar instruction as being the key to the teaching of writing. Why is that? Well, part of it, it seems to me, is one of the potential weaknesses of empirical research over perceptions and fears, especially when those perceptions and fears are red by things like popular media or personal nostalgia, and I guess what people might consider to be a gut feeling or “common sense.” It would make sense, for example, that in order to write well and grammatically, you must have to know the rules, and there is a lot of (largely inaccurate, I suspect) memories among folks of seemingly every generation that they learned grammar and usage rules in school, and, dangit, their kids should too. So often, data loses to perceptions (or hopes or feelings or whatever), and it is very difficult to change ideologies with facts.

But I digress.

The point is that this new and crazy interets are not out to get our kids, much in the same way that the rock n’ roll of my parents’ generation didn’t get them either. It makes me wonder what my bogey man is going to be when Will is a teenager.

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