This Month's Topic:

The Dangerous Internet... Beware!

Phase one:
by Laura...

The Dangerous Internet

The internet is dangerous! I don't dispute that. By the same token, so is the city park, the mall, Walmart parking lot, undercooked poultry, the jungles of South America, the Catholic church (if you are a young boy), and most kitchens and bathrooms. EVERYTHING is dangerous to the ignorant, the innocent, and the blind. Now that I am not so innocent, I have to try not to be ignorant either, since there is no one holding my hand. I am aware of people, sounds, and good sales around me in the mall, parking lots, and the church. I would not venture into a jungle without first becoming educated about anacondas and fashionable jungle attire. When taking my daughter to the park, I never let go of her sweet little hand until she understands about strangers. And even when I let her walk unattached to my hand, my EYES never leave her. Aqualung is in every park, in fact, every facet of society. I consider the park, the mall, the church, and the bathroom worth going to, worth the risk of always imminent danger. But weighing the risks means that I take responsibility for my safety and privacy and that of my still innocent children. The fact that the park is a nice place for kids to play and that kids shouldn't have to worry about kidnappers and perverts, does not change the fact that predators are out there at random, and that parents have the responsibility of protecting their children just as they always have.

I have always paralleled the internet to real life. It makes the risks and the social dynamics make more sense to me. The internet is still a relatively new frontier, as frontiers go. The same characters thicken the plot as in the Old West scenario. There's your shrewd pioneers, your savages and thieves and speculators, and then the greedy dumb-asses who don't know what they are doing or where they are going, just that they want a piece of the property. The first pioneers were scientists and Unix experts. Then mingled in the local BBS users, who were old pros in the online phenomenon. The real trouble began when access spread to any dunce with a phone line and computer, making all the growth in the innocent or ignorant category. Who is best preyed upon by con-artists and perverts? That's right kids.... Innocents and Ignorants! Cons and pervs are on the internet, just like in real life, and that is just common sense! EVERYTHING is on the internet now, including pizza delivery and card shops, so you bet your sweet bippy that there's those guys online with the laptop, cell phone, binoculars, bad nose run, and a "BE MY BITCH" tattoo on the ass! Does the internet offer information, entertainment, and services which are worth the risk? That is an individual choice. For me, that's a resounding YES! And here is why: I don't feel threatened.

The danger or perceived danger on the internet has unique characteristics. Every time I log-in to a remote server, I am opening a window to the world, and all that comes with it. It is a privilege and a responsibility, and I wouldn't allow someone ignorant or innocent to subject my privacy, security, or safety to the outside world, at least not unsupervised. Common sense and responsibility are all that I need to keep me safe. Common sense tells me that:

1) Giving out my full name, address, social security number, phone number, or other information that makes me conspicuous and locatable in person makes me more vulnerable than I would be otherwise.

2) Giving out my credit card number on the phone or on ANY electronic medium makes me more financially vulnerable.

3) Online people only reveal about themselves what they WANT me to know/see. Thus, their online representation may or may NOT be complete or accurate. (i.e. a handsome, intelligent, wealthy stud may really be a shy, 10 yr old boy with a terrific mastery of the English language) Realizing these things, I can feel free to browse through any information and meet any person I want to without jeopardizing my safety or privacy. Unlike real life situations, I can disconnect or turn off the computer when I am offended or threatened. And there is no reason why anyone MUST know where to physically find me.

As far as children are concerned ... I think that the internet is a safer place to organize, socialize, and retrieve information than any library, mall, or school. Physically speaking, it is MY kid, on MY computer, in MY home. But virtually speaking, it is an innocent person in the great wide open. Common sense tells me that this requires supervision. I have sense enough to know that I need to explore and understand this uncharted territory before I let my curious and innocent kids explore it alone. It is through negligence, laziness, or ignorance that parents let their children get caught up in any con or victimization. The bottom line is that safety of the child is the parent's responsibility. The problem comes when any dope with a computer can sign his family up on the internet without knowing the web from a hole in the ground. Suddenly his computer literate 9 year old has unlimited access to the world (INCLUDING Amsterdam! GASP!!) The key is to be ONE STEP AHEAD of your kids. If you are going to open your window to the world, at least understand what risks are involved and how to put up a screen to whatever parasites and filth will fly in, with only the key of your ignorant permission.

The interesting thing about the internet is that it is the first medium that is always on the terms of the USER. Nothing pops up on your screen that you do not seek out. Your name, address, age, and sexual preference never emerge without having typed it out yourself. Yet it always amazes me how ready people are to make further legislation regarding MY personal freedom, in MY own home, on MY own computer to access that which is NOT government owned. Criminals and cons will not disappear by being outlawed.

Rules of thumb: Don't access things which you find offensive. Supervise your own children. Teach them the same awareness that you taught them about strangers in the park. You have complete control over what is seen and experienced on your own computer in your own home. If you don't, then you are one of the morons who should not plug a phone line into your computer. Don't try to control what other adults access. I am more comfortable with Aqualung typing away at his keyboard ,basking in the glow of his OWN computer monitor than to have him hanging out in public. By the same token, I think cybersex is much safer than sharing body fluids with strangers. And I could care less about the morality of someone else's computer use as long as they don't invade my space.

The biggest danger I see is in the ignorants not owning their responsibility. Leave it to these people to ask the GOVERNMENT to monitor, restrict, protect and censor what our children see. And by doing so, clip the wings of freedom one more time. I'll take care of the safety and welfare of those I'm responsible for, thank you. That's MY job! And people..... just use your heads! If you are offended by something, DON'T click on it. If you feel your kids are being victimized, STOP paying for an internet account. If you feel annoyed or threatened, unplug the phone line from your computer. It is that simple. Just as in the real world, watch your step and look before you cross a road. Duh!

Phase two:
by Remo...

The Dangerous World

The dangerous internet... I've heard and read so much about the dangers inherent in this chaos based medium that I've occasionally looked into the background of the sooth-sayers. Do you recall the bimbo who was caught on the good ship "Monkey Business" with Gary Hart? I won't even mention her name. She's HAD her 15 minutes. She was on a crusade to push government intervention in order to stop the smut mongering that apparently is ubiquitous on the net. I found it absolutely hilarious that she was taken serious to the extent where she appeared on Hard Copy and other news related shows. Here's a woman who had a thorough background check during her copious coupling with Senator Hart. It was found that her main attributes around an office were nicely contained by a push-up bra. I'd love to grill her on national TV regarding her credentials in this arena. I'd love to push her into being specific about the wide-spread smut on the web. The upshot of this paragraph is that the media has whipped the perception of internet danger into a froth. This isn't a surprised look on my face.

The central fixation regarding internet danger is children. As it should be. People who can't properly care for their children in the privacy of their own home, haven't got a chance of doing so as they wander about alone in this wild, wicked world. If they're not capable of monitoring their children on the computer, they shouldn't own one. Do these people also have cable TV? Do they have HBO, Showtime, The Movie Channel and Cinemax? Sex is displayed on all of these networks in a fairly graphic manner. It leaves a bit to the imagination but not a lot. The very worst that you'll find on the net is a bit more graphic than you'd find on cable. What's the difference? Do you really believe that children, who are capable of being swayed by graphic sex, can't imagine what's not shown on cable? They can't possibly imagine what's up when a woman's head lies in her partner's lap? When they see a naked woman sitting astride a man, with their hips locked together, they can't figure out that tab A is joined with slot B? Of COURSE they can. If they happen to get into the wrong website or newsgroup, and see the real thing, I truly don't believe it's going to have much more of an adverse effect on them than does cable. Truthfully I find the less honest approach of cable TV much more prurient in nature. I'm not in any way condoning this sort of fare for young children and I firmly believe that parents should monitor their children's use of the internet as well as their viewing of cable. By the same token, let's not kid each other that the internet is the only purveyor of blatant sexuality. Sex sells. Therefore, it's everywhere.

The only true danger to children on the net are pedophiles. There have been cases of these carnivores preying on children through the web. These people would be practicing their perversions with or without an internet. The victims might not be the same people, but there would be victims none the less. Is the internet the problem? I don't think so. There seem to be more cases of pedophilia cropping up than ever before. Are there more cases? Is the media simply keying on this problem more? As more cases of sexual abuse toward children come into the light, it makes it easier for others who were also abused to come forward. I think this is a truly excellent trend in that this sort of behaviour can't stand the light of day. The more we key on how we feel about this, as a society, the more chance we have of modifying the behavior of the perpetrators. The Internet isn't the culprit here and shouldn't be viewed as such.

What other dangers are there? Credit card fraud. Anyone who's willing to give out their credit card number and expiration date over the phone, or fax, is at just as much risk as those giving it out over the web. If you ONLY give out this information on a secure site, you have even less chance of being burned than you do over the phone and fax.

Lonely hearts? I subscribe to a major newspaper that has a full page of lonely hearts looking for love. This feature is published once per week. In many cases, you actually have more of a shot of meeting someone who IS who he/she claims to be on the web. Dealing through the newspaper you'd correspond through a blind letter box. The only clues you have about your new friend is what they've written. Is it truthful? Did they use a dictionary to spell the harder words? Did they plagiarize other documents? There's no way for you to tell. This is all done for the primary reason of actually meeting face to face. You are truly walking into a situation that might be dangerous or even life threatening. If you chat over the WEB it's much more difficult to mask your inadequacies as your partner can watch you type. It's much more dynamic. If you utilize programs like CUSEEME, you can actually SEE the person you're dealing with. This should effectively eliminate the "are you a boy or are you a girl" worries.

Would government intervention make the web a safer place? Try taking a walk at midnight through Washington D.C. Make sure you pack a flack jacket and an UZI, though...

Everything expressed in The Rant & Rave is most definitely the opinions of the two authors. Anyone taking exception to any edition of The Rant & Rave is cordially invited to sprout wings and utilize round rolling pastry as their next sexual conquest.

Warped Web Page Wizard