Valdemar W. Setzer
Original version in Portuguese: 1/14/2008; this English version: 11/8/2010; last revision: 9/15/2012
This paper is a review of the book by Gregory S. Smith How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers (Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2007). Upon request of a Brazilian press, I gave an opinion on the convenience of translating and editing it; my opinion was strongly favorable. The resulting Brazilian edition is titled Como Proteger seus Filhos da Internet: Um guia para pais e professores (Ribeirão Preto: Novo Conceito, 2009). As the subject was a pressing educational issue, I decided to write this review before the publication of the Brazilian edition, citing all the points I considered most important in the book, adding at the end my opinions and recommendations regarding this issue. My intention in publishing the original review on my Web site was to make available to the Portuguese speaking public some important information of the book, and encourage its study after its translation. Because of this, I covered the book in many details. This English version has been requested by Jacques Brodeur, who intended to publish it in his Web site Edupax.
Sections 2 to 3 of this review contain an extensive summary of the contents of the book. This summary is presented according to its structure, in a quite objective way, that is, without expressing my opinion. Obviously, the choice of topics presented in this review is subjective, as well as the choice of quotations from the book. The latter represent points of view and data considered relevant. Titles of chapters and sections of the book and the excerpts quoted from it were cited in quotation marks. Section 4 contains some general opinions about the book and additional arguments showing that the Internet should not be used by children and adolescents.
The book is organized into two parts, each with several chapters. Each chapter concludes with a section with recommendations to parents.2. Part One: "Introduction to Technology and Risks on the Internet"
2.1 Chapter 1: "Welcome to the Internet."
In this chapter the author describes what is the Internet and its history.
It is worth repeating some of the book’s data to form an idea of the size of the Internet: in 1995, the number of its users was 45 million; in 2000 420 million, in 2005 it surpassed 1 billion and a forecast for 2011 suggested more than 2 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of may 2006 143 million Americans had Internet access from their homes, with 72% connected via broadband. For what concerns us the following data are relevant: 91% of all U.S. children between 3 and 12 years, in kindergartens and elementary schools use computers, and 59% have Internet access.
In the section of recommendations at the end of this chapter the author introduces one of the most important facets of the danger posed by the Internet: "Children between ages 8 and 17 are not growing in an environment similar to the childhood of their parents. Children of past generations couldn’t even fathom the kinds of hard-core pornography available today at the click of a mouse, nor predict the actions of today’s teens while they are online." (p. 13.) This is followed by recommendations to parents to become quite familiar with the computer and Internet used at home, especially the use of passwords, accounts and restrictions that can be introduced; record all programs used at home with their versions, including email, Web browsers, instant messaging systems, anti-virus and anti-spam programs (spam is unwanted email distributed to a very large list of addresses, containing irrelevant material, advertisements, viruses etc.), and programs for filtering and monitoring accesses; talk to the children and ask them what they are doing on the network; review the sites they are accessing (he gives directions on how to see the history of accesses from browsers); doing searches on computer files; noting all devices that have Internet access, such as telephones, computers, TVs, etc.; ask the children how many email accounts they have, whether they use instant messaging systems etc. "Be prepared for some lies." (p. 14.)2.2 Chapter 2: "Back to School"
In this chapter the author defines usual Internet terminology in alphabetical order, such as what are administrator privileges of an operating system, blocking software, blog, modem, DSL, etc.
In the section of recommendations, he calls attention to the fact that Internet technologies and resources are constantly changing, so that parents and educators must constantly update themselves. A very important point is "By the time most children reach the age of 14 or 15 years of age, they have completely surpassed their parents’ knowledge of computers and the Internet. If left unchecked, these may get into some trouble, whether or not they mean it. Parents have an obligation and right to nurture, educate and protect their children from the risks associated with going online. Those that feel they are violating the children’s privacy by keeping ahead of them from a technological and monitoring perspective may actually be contributing to their risk." (p. 43.) This emphasis on the obligation of parents for the proper upbringing of their children is present in the whole book.
Some highlights of the recommendations: when the children are young and in intermediate classes (5th to 8th grades), "place your Internet-enabled computers in a common space that is viewable. Don’t allow them to have unfettered access to the Internet, especially from their rooms. " (p. 43.); learn how a firewall works and install one in each machine; make a survey of filters and programs to block access to certain sites "No computer or device that is used by a child should be without some type of protection or monitoring. As a parent, you are responsible for what your child has access to or is doing online." (p. 43); install individual accounts for the children on each computer "When appropriate, restrict those accounts from installing new software or applications. [...] No child needs to install software without a parent’s consent, unless of course there is a stealth software installed." (p. 44.); find out what security measures your child's school has taken to protect him while using computers in the classroom. "Don’t settle for generic answers. [... ] Engage your child's teacher in a conversation on Internet safety. You may be surprised how little they know." (p. 44.) Most children use an Internet search engine such as Google, Alta Vista, etc. for their school projects, "Where appropriate, help your child perform the search and approve each results page to ensure that they are not being exposed to inappropriate content." (p. 44.) Maintain a dialogue with the children about the dangers of Internet use.
2.3 Chapter 3: "Risks Overview: Are Parents Making the Grade?"
This chapter describes and details the dangers that children and adolescents risk when using the Internet, and challenges parents to verify if they got the proper information about them.
Right at the beginning, the author puts himself firmly against "privacy advocates that pontificate about how wrong it is for parents to spy on their kids’ activities, some online, in an attempt to keep them safe [...]. I have every right as a parent to do what it takes to keep them safe. My house is not a democracy and is far cry from a dictatorship [...]. The Internet is definitely an interesting place, especially for parents trying to protect their children from adult content, harmful adult predators, and others intending to physically or emotionally harm children." (p. 45.)
Attention: at this point I cease to literally quote from the book, unless for chapter and section titles. Due to a request from the author, who menaced of suing me because of plagiarism (in spite of my having put the citations in quotes and specifying the pages they were copied from). He allowed me to quote only 300 words, so from now on I replace his own phrases by my own. I maintain his page numbers, thus making it possible for the reader to locate his own phrases, which are certainly much better written and clear than my limited English permits. If someone would like to receive my original with all his quotations, please write me an e-mail; my address may be found at the top of my home page at http://www.ime.usp.br/~vwsetzer. I excuse myself for the poor result of trying to change his words and phrases. Let it be clear that I did not change this text because of Smith's menace, but in respect to his wishes.
The author points to the fact that children and adolescents have four major sites of Internet access: the home, school, friends’ homes and Internet cafés or shared Wi-Fi sites (p. 46.). He enumerates the dangers of such use, such as having access to sexual content, being subjected to menaces eventually from predators with sexual intent; viruses and spyware (software that transmits to others via the Internet personal information like usernames, account numbers, passwords etc.); obtaining personal data; playing games for money and addiction; buying or distributing drugs; viewing acts of violence and mutilation; racism and insensitiveness, fraud and identity theft; injuries inflicted to people. (p. 47.) More specifically, he lists five main dangers for children and youth between 8 and 17 years of age:
1. Images of pornography and adult content; 2. Viruses, and software that collect data; 3. Predators in search of sex; 4. Grown-ups desiring to kidnap, sexual abuse or kill children; 5. Propagating crimes due to hate, promoting arms and incentive harm to other people (pp. 46-7).
The author presents the various ways in which these dangers can occur, such as chat rooms, cell phones/PDAs, instant messaging, browsing/searching, blogging and email (p. 47). Then he details the dangers of surfing the Internet or using search engines, and shows how content filters are insufficient. He acknowledges that the intent of search companies could be good, but youngsters may circumvent the parameters by altering them, eliminating cookies [local files with data associated with any site, in this case with filtering parameters] or changing to another browser and specifying their own look-up parameters. (p. 48.) The author found that the so-called "family filters" (a class of filters provided by browsers), were not effective in their majority (p. 48) and gives a table of search results. For example, using Google with an activated filter, a search using adult terms provided 146 million pages, and the same search without the filter provided 599 million.
Further dangers in using email, instant messaging and chat rooms are detailed. Then he details what are network predators, and says that the internet predator is in general middle-aged, male, married and has his own children. (p. 52.) In general terms (i.e. not just through the Internet), 25% of sexual abuse are committed by women. According to a citation, sexual predators are smart, have a good knowledge of the Web and how to disguise their files. (p. 52.) The author expresses an opinion based on his personal experiences, that teenagers have more on other people while using the Internet, and they don’t grasp the intentions of a predator, nor the dangers of giving information about themselves for everybody to see. This applies in particular to things they would not tell some friends. The author calls the attention to the fact that parents and teachers should control what children they care about do, in order to avoid their being subjectes to risks they don’t understand or decide to ignore. (p. 54.) In the sequel he presents six pages of chat room conversation between a 38-year old predator and a young girl who had inserted photos and personal data on a social networking site (from now on, simply called "social networking"). The predator asked to change the conversation from a public forum to a more private one, where there was no recording of the conversation; he pretended to be a more mature young boy trying to lead the girl to more adventurous situations. They end up making a date, the last sentences of chat being: "(Predator) don’t forget to wear something hot! everyone that sees us will want to be me to be with the hottie, who is also a nice person ... (Cutegirl666) really? (Predator) sure. Can’t wait to see you for our first meeting. Remember – don’t tell anyone ... can’t wait to see you, chow!" (p. 60).
The author also deals with cases such as blogs and social networking sites, message exchange via cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) handheld computers that work as cell phones.
This chapter also provides statistics on Internet use by children and adolescents, provided by organizations that deal with exploited and missing children. Some data from a USA national survey made by the University of New Hampshire in 2003 are cited, involving 10-17 year old 796 boys and 705 girls, and also those responsible for them. At least one undesired access to sexual pictures in the previous year were reported by 25% of the youngsters. Moreover, 73% while using a browser and 27% while using email or instant messaging. The places were such incidents happened were 67% at home, 15% in school, 13% at homes of friends, and 3 % in a library. 32% of the pictures showed people in sexual intercourse, and 7% had scenes of violence; of e-mails, 92% came from unknown people. Undesired material was found more by boys (57%) than girls (42%). Furthermore, the exposition 15-year or older youngsters was greater (60%) than younger ones; there was more exposition by troubled youths (p. 64).
It is also worth mentioning a survey conducted by three organizations with 503 parents and youths aged between the ages of 13 and 17 in February 2005, who had Internet access from home: 34% computers with access to the Internet were placed in the living room, 30% in the bedroom. Moreover, 51% of parents don't know if they have programs installed to monitor what their children do with the computer. Of those who had such programs, 87% used this software to control what their children were doing; 23% did it daily and 33% monthly; teenagers use of instant messaging was reported by 61% of parents; parents who did not control what their children were doing were 42%. In general, parents ignored the acronyms used by their children. For example, 96% of them did not know that P911 meant parent alert, and 92% did not know what A/S/L (age/sex/location) meant (pp. 64-65).
The author shows a questionnaire he prepared and passed to 100 anonymous parents in the U.S. with children between the ages of 8 and 17, showing the percentages of responses. He says that he expanded the ages of those surveyed to children below age 10, because of his experience in seeing users of that age using computers at school and at home. He says that he was surprised with the results, which show that parents are ignorant of the dangers the Internet presents to young children (p. 65).
Here are some of the questions and results, using the number of each question as it is in the book.
Q1: If you have children under 18, do they access the Internet? Yes: 96%, no 4%.
Q3: Does the Internet present any dangers to children? Yes: 98%, no: 2%.
Q6: Specify at what ages that you allowed your children to use the following (pp. 66-8):
1. Using a browser: 4 years
2. Using e-mail: 4 years
3. Phones without instant messaging: 7 years
4. Cell phones with messaging: 10 years
5. Accounts of instant messaging: 8 years
6. Use of social networking sites: 10 years.
Q7. Why did you give your children access to the Internet?
1. Other children have access: 3%
2. Homework for the school: 68%
3. I want to stay in touch with my children: 0%
4. My children will not use it badly: 18%
5. Other: 11%
Q8: Do you use software to filter or block pages for your children? Yes: 39%; no: 61%.
Q10: Do you know people who have children who have been harmed while using the Internet? Yes: 22%; no: 78%.
The author comments that he was surprised by the use of the Internet parents allowed their very young children. He guesses that either these parents are too permissive or they don’t comprehend the dangers (p. 68). He also comments that he was surprised with the result of Q10, because he expected much less, and adds that this may indicate a much higher percentage of children that may have been harmed by their Internet use, and he advocates that national surveys shoudl be done in this direction (pp. 68-9).
The last section of this chapter deals with protection in schools and libraries. The author contends that there was some progress in this direction, but there is still a long way to go. He mentions two laws in the U.S. that were an improvement in relation to the protection of minors. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) became law in December 2000, requiring schools that receive certain federal funds and have discounts for network connection to implement Internet safety measures and install systems to protect children. However, he acknowledges that there are no standards in this direction (p. 68). He then reports that he used in November 2006 a 2nd grade student account in a very large public school system (over 100,000 students, over 150 schools in the county, more than 15,000 employees); this system had policies for Internet use and for installed software. He was able to make access to Google and change the navigation parameters, from moderate filtering to no filtering; did a search on the word sex, getting 415 million links to pages. After resulting pages were obtained, he had access to many sexual images with the Google Images device; saw an amateur video on one of the results provided by Google of two adults having sexual intercourse in their kitchen; he managed to download on the computer another browser (Netscape); had access to personal/consumer email Web pages (e.g., MSN email).
He describes actions that he could not do, as loading programs, removing installed programs, etc.
In the section of recommendations, the author states: establishing policies for computer use at home, keeping administrator-level passwords to operating systems (with this, it is possible to force restrictions for each account); using email processors which include anti-spam; use filters and monitoring software; using safe search engines only, etc.
Finally, he recommends some sites which help prevent the dangers of going online and help parents and teachers (p. 72) and states that the reader should be more participative in the school, e.g. by asking what measures have been implemented by the school to protect children. Moreover, parents should test themselves such installed systems and report any detected flaws (p. 73).
2.4 Chapter 4: "The Risks of Going Online"
This chapter begins with reports of 18 cases with about 30 victims of killings, kidnappings, rapes and sexual exhibition of 9-15 year old children by predators who made contacts with them over the Internet. It is worth mentioning one final sentence of a quoted article from the site Netsmartz.org: "Allowing a child unmonitored access to the Internet is like putting him or her out on a street corner and not watching what happens." (p. 76.)
Recommendations include: having frequent conversations with children about the risks of going online; reporting cases that happened to others, and how they were deceived. The author states that parents talk to their children about the fact that there bad people exist, and they may do harm, as well as how they do it; he says that he used this approach to prevent his children of having an instant messaging account. (p. 77). One of his interesting proposals is that a contract should be made with the children, stating explicitly what they cannot do with the Internet. Both children and parents should sign it. This contract should contain sections about the prohibition to provide personal data in any type of application (chat, video games, social networks, instant messaging etc.). A special section should mention that in no case the children should personally encounter people who they have met at the Internet.
3. Part two: "A Road Map to Protect Children While Online"
3.1 Chapter 5: "How to Monitor Your Kids Online"
This chapter presents tricks that children and adolescents use to hide what they are typing, and non-technical monitoring as well as filtering and monitoring software.
The tricks mentioned are: children and teenagers often create multiple accounts for email; they use several different IM tools to make voice connections; they remove temporary files from browsers, making it impossible to track the visited sites; they create some personal pages on free providers; they install browsers other than the one normally used, hiding its activation icon on the desktop; they browse the Internet short-circuiting content controls established by their parents; they try to find the administrator password used by parents; they delete received emails and text received through IM that they do not want parents to see; they store emails and files (pictures, videos, etc.) in external storage devices (memory keys, pen drives, flash drives or data keys); they use shortcut keys to quickly change screens and programs when parents are approaching the computer; they use abbreviations and jargon to tell others they cannot talk more freely (e.g. CTN – can’t talk now, POS – parent over shoulder); they turn off conversation logging; they frequently change social networking sites; change file names to send them as attachments via email, and later return the original name.
In the section on non-technical monitoring, the author recommends installing the computer in a room with open access, such that everyone may check what is being done with it. Furthermore, time limits should be established for going online. Children should be forbidden the children to use the Internet while parents or people taking care of them are not at home. Parents should frequently check which web sites have been visited either using special software for this of using the browsers' access history. Also it is very important to check sent, received and deleted mails. Pen drives belonging to children should also be frequently checked (p. 89).
Most of the chapter is devoted to the description of monitoring software. The simplest way is to use filters to block access to sites containing certain words, such as ‘adult’, ‘drugs’, ‘violence’, etc. Programs that block access to certain sites use a list with addresses of undesirable sites classified by category; producers of monitoring software are constantly checking the Internet searching for new site addresses to be included in the list. It is interesting to mention here data cited by the author: according to a (then) recent study by the U.S. government, approximately 1.1% of the sites that were searched or indexed by MSN (Microsoft Messenger) and Google, and 1.7% of those indexed by AOL, MSN and Yahoo contain explicit sex. This may seem not very much, but counting the astronomical number of sites searched and indexed, the result is a huge number.
The author says that only a few monitoring programs are really effective, and recommends the following calculation of quality for deciding which system to buy: blocking as advertised (weight 50), easy to install and parameterize (weight 40) and low cost (weight 10). He then examines in detail the surveillance programs that he recommends: CyberPatrol and PC tattletale, showing features and parameterization screens. Each one has advantages in certain types of control. The author recommends the installation of both; he mentions one or the other throughout the book, depending on what type of control is desired.
In the section on recommendations, suggestions are given to not to trust too much on filter provided by browser. He also recommends installing PC Tattletale stealth software.(p. 99.) Recommendations are given specifically for three age groups: 8 to 11, 12 to 14 and 15 to 17.3.2 Chapter 6: "Internet Surfing, Blogs and Social Networking"
The author cites that in October 2006 the number of sites exceeded the 100 million mark. Recalling that each contains many pages, one can imagine the total volume of data stored on the Internet. In 1995 there were 18,000 sites, so one may have an idea of this explosive growth. An add by Microsoft is mentioned that 7 million new pages are added every day.
The usage of the five most popular search engines are examined: Google, with 60.2%, Yahoo with 22.5%, MSN with 11.8%, Ask with 3.3% and AOL with 1%, and 1% for others. In each case, Smith considers how much "good, bad and ugly" (p. 101) they have.
Since it is very easy to find hardcore pornography on the Internet through search engines, the author makes assertions that are worth transcribing. Initially he gives the testimony of an expert, stating that pornography increases the possibility of acquiring sexual addiction. Clinical research shows that 40% of sex addicts lose their spouse, 58% end up with a negative impact on their finances, and 27-40% may lose their jobs. He calls the attention that the consequences on children are also very bad, but in other ways, including the following. 1. Children may think that images and videos are normal and can be applied to themselves. 2. Children may be inclined to experiment the same sexual attitudes that they see. 3. There may be an incentive for sexual acts at early ages, with eventual pregnancies or the infection by sexual diseases (p. 104).
An Australian report is quoted, stating that all children who became sexual predators had experienced pornography on the Internet (p. 104).
The author recommends that one should not trust the safety of search engine settings. So, the most common search engines should be blocked for children through middle school. Moreover, parents should use the CyberPatrol software to avoid accessing dangerous contents, both text and visual. He says that children, especially teenagers, may acquire a false notion of what a normal sexual relationships are, with bad consequeces later in life (p. 105).
The next section of this chapter deals with social networks and blogs, which are considered by Smith as presenting great challenges for parents, teachers and children. He mentions that millions of children and adults were being drawn by MySpace, Xanga and Friendster (Facebook and Orkut were not yet popular when he wrote the book). He draws attention to the fact that children often insert into these sites their photos and personal information. He says it is interesting to note what induces average people to maintain a blog and disclose personal information for millions of people, who are writing about anything (p. 106). A study quoted by the Pew Research Center shows that there were 12 million adult bloggers in the U.S., or 8% of adult Internet users; 76% of them share their personal experiences. To give an idea of the immense number of people participating in social networking sites, the author presents a table with the following data: in 2006, MySpace had 79.6 million visitors, an increase of 243% over 2005; Facebook 15.5 million and an increase of 86%; Friendster 15.4 million and -1%; LiveJournal 11.6 million and -4%; Piczo 10.2 million and 216%; Bebo 9 million and 185% (p.107).
The author calls attention to the fact that if these sites can be very attractive and fun for young people, they are ideal places for sexual predators (p. 107). But these are not the only kind of predators: there are those who copy photos and forge personal data with second motives. He recommends blocking acess to social networks for elementary and middle school children, and to frequently call the children's attention to avoid sending anything personal that can give information to a sexual predator. If children may have access to social networks sites, PC Tattletale should be used to check photos and movies, thus being sure that the children are not having contact with wrong people or are sending sensitive personal material. He calls the attention that social networks are highly attractive for teenagers. Sometimes they express themselves more freely through the Internet than personally, because they are not subjected to embarrassment if they say improper things (p. 108).
The section ends with some observations about FTP sites (sites from where one can copy files using the Internet File Transfer Protocol), noting that these sites can be blocked by a firewall, which will be discussed later.
The next section of the chapter is titled "Video cameras gone wild."
Smith calls the attention to video cameras and sites that display videos presenting high risks for children (p. 110). He mentions that YouTube had 20 million visitors per month and 50,000 new videos uploads per day. This number is so huge, that those responsible for the site are unable to exercise vigilance over what types of videos are placed there. They say that in 15 minutes a really objectionable video is removed from the site. However, the author says that not all are removed, but made available only to users aged 18 years or more. But children may simply lie about their age when they register to view these videos. He draws attention to the following: it is easy for children and adolescents having access to inappropriate videos in video-sharing sites; these sites can display personal information; pictures and videos can be used by sexual predators for blackmailing, forcing children and adolescents to do other activities in the network, including sexual acts, or even forcing a personal encounter. Curiously, the author cites the case of a famous Brazilian model filmed in a sexual act on a beach with her boyfriend, and who got the provider to block the YouTube video – this made the video even more famous, and as it had been copied into some other sites. Viewers in Brazil or around the world could not be blocked (p. 111).
The following section, "Firewalls and wireless" shows the facilities provided by these two devices. In terms of wireless connection, the author says that it presents additional challenges in terms of protecting children and adolescents: laptop computers with wireless access can bypass security protections on the Internet, simply by connecting to a wireless device without network security; laptops can be used in places where parents cannot monitor them PC Tattletale must be installed on them; installed firewalls can be circumvent by connecting to another access point. The following advices are given: 1. Install CyberPatrol, define appropriate blocking parameters for each age in each laptop used by a child or adolescent; 2. If wireless connection is enabled, install PC Tattletale with stealth, frequently reviewing the Internet usage; 3. If violations occur, let children use only desktops, deciding if Internet access will be provided, depending on the severity of the violations. 4. Children should regard notebooks as luxury items, which will be subtracted upon misuse (p. 114).
In the recommendations section, the author summarizes actions to be taken by parents, such as the use the operating system or a software firewall with strong restrictions. Furthermore, set parameters on the operating system preventing the installation of software (the author gives directions on how to do it in Windows XP). He again recommends installing PC Tattletale on all computers and set stealth mode for middle and high school children and use the play-back feature. Using the firewall, block the FTP protocol (p. 114).
There are special recommendations for children aged 8-11, 12-14 and 15-17 years.
3.3 Chapter 7: "Email"
The author draws attention to the fact that this topic is the easiest for parents and teachers, due to the popular use of email. He cites the most common providers of Webmail and describes the types of email processors (Webmail, POP3 and IMAP). In the section on the dangers of email he mentions: 1. Predators obtain email addresses on sites and social networks, then use them to get further personal data. 2. Children may be reached through spam with unapropriate images or content and links that lead to adult content sites. 3. Due to their inexperience, children tend to open more file attachments or messages, which may contain computer viruses. A common trick are scams affering prizes in exchange of personal data. 4. ONe should pay attention to children 's e-mail processors, and check to see if full name are being automatically sent in the Sender header field. For this, Smith suggests sending an email from the child’s account and see what appears in the From heading. 5. Using free webmail maybe dangerous because data on username and password are in general not encrypted (p. 120).
In the next section, "kid-friendly email programs" are described. In order to protect children, they allow parents to set parameters imposing several restrictions. For example, some setting many controls, such as specifying who can email the child, chicking incoming mail before it reaches child’s inbox, sending to a parent copies of sent and received emails (p. 121).
In the next section the author presents a list of "tricks that children use to hide email activities" all already mentioned before but worth repeating. Children use many different accounts and web services, and change them as needed; they eliminate emails from inbox and sent folders when they want to avoid parents surveillance; they give innocent file names to file attachments and use pen drivers to store files they don't want their parents to see; they eliminate history and temporary Internet files from browsers (p. 122).
The text also discusses how to block free email services, mainly using the two monitoring programs recommended on section 3.1. It also covers the danger posed by attachments and email type spam (unsolicited email widely distributed, often with advertising or viruses). In the latter topic there is an interesting fact: there is a service, Postini Resource Center, which monitors and blocks spam for its customers. The department recently reported that 81.5% of emails received by the clients were tagged as spam. The author monitored the service on a certain day, and in 24 hours 371.500 million emails (out of 562.9 million) were classified as spam; 1 in every 335 contained a virus. With this, the author wants to show the real problem represented by spam. His recommendation is to install an anti-spam program or to use a provider that has such a service.
As in the last chapters, extensive recommendations follow on what to do for every age group. An interesting point is to establish a family policy where passwords should be known by parents and should not be changed by their children. If this happens, the child's account for the computer should be blocked. Smith states that he favors issuing a warning before taking stronger measures. Probably, he says, if a child keeps changing her emaisl password something suspicious must be happening. In this case, he recommends using PC Tattletale to check the child's emails and take the proper measures, such as canceling accounts until the child learns how to respect the rules. Here he calls the attention to the fact that "parenting is not a democracy". Parents should protect their children and should take adequate measures in this direction (p. 125).
3.4 Chap. 8: "Instant Messaging and Voice-over-IP"
Initially instant messaging (IM), in which the author includes voice over the Internet (voice-over-IP, VOIP), are described in detail, highlighting their advantages. Various servers for such services and their main characteristics are described. It is also described how he tried CyberPatrol, successfully blocking AOL, Skype, ICQ and MSN servers, but failed to block Google and Yahoo.
The dangers of children using IM are: A way for predators contacting children.; links to inappropriate content can be received through them; if the settings allow, everyone logged into the service may get the user's name and send her messages; messages are in general not recorded; photos and files may be sent without a possibility of knowing it afterwards; some services permit voice conversations with anyone in the world who is also logged in. The latter consists one of the highest dangers to children, because they remain hidden from later checks (pp. 131-2).
The next 2 sections give a table with IM lingo, and show how difficult it is to block IM. The author indicates how to block the use of Skype using CyberPatrol. He gives a list of actions which children and adolescents do to hide the use of IM. Besides what has been covered in other sections, he mentions the use of earphones and live video sessions. He says that PC Tattletale effectively blocks all uses of IM.
The next section deals with chat rooms. There are rooms to suit all tastes and interests, for example, the book mentions Yahoo Groups for the following adult categories: divorce, extramarital affairs, gay, lesbian, bisexual and swingers (promiscuous sex, change of partner). It is worth quoting an example: the subgroup DiscreteDaytimePlaytime, with invitations for adults to become members of a group of orgies starting at noon and going until midnight, in several hotels in California. The section ends with a discussion about the dangers of online gaming, because some contain the possibility of exchanging instant messages.
The next section deals with how predators find their victims. It gives an example of six steps that can be followed in such a search, including the use of maps sites to find the home of a minor.
The recommendations tell to set the computer to prevent children from downloading software like IM, and install PC Tattletale and occasionally setting stealth mode (p. 139).
Specific recommendations are also divided into age groups. A list of addresses of IM programs is given, to be used in CyberPatrol blocking access to them.
3.5 Chapter 9: "Cell Phones and PDAs"
The author cites some interesting data showing the extension of the problem, such as number of cell phones shipped (billions of them, (p. 142). He classifies these devices into four categories: 1. Child/restricted phones; 2. Standard cellular phones; 3.PDAs (personal digital assistants); 4. Satellite phones. He describes each type in detail, showing what can be done with them. Turning to the danger to children and teenagers, he says that cell phones are much more dangerous than computers, because they can be used everywhere (p. 144). He presents an extensive list showing top threats associated with children using cell phones. Here are just some highlights. Email accounts on mobile phones are more difficult to control and tracking software is not applied to mobile phones. He calls the attention to the fact that control software were not available for cell phones at the time of his writing, and he thinks the industry is not interested in safety questions, but in selling their gadgets (p. 145). The use of the Internet through cell phones present the greatest dangers for children; with most of them it is possible to take pictures and videos. The author reports having tested his "BalackBerry’s Internet access and was able get to adult sites with pictures quite easily. He recommend using cell phones only as phones, for parents to maintain contact with their children.
The next section describes how cell phones and GPS (Global Positioning Systems) work. There are cell phones with GPS devices, so parents may locate their children with good precision. The author give lists of standard cell phones providers and PDA producers.
The recommendations in this chapter are quite extent, also divided into age groups.
3.6 Chapter. 10: "A Glimpse into the Future"
The author starts by saying that Internet access is spreading across many devices, characterizing a convergence. He thinks that in the future systems will have better security devices, and presents foreseeing technology advances for 2010, 2015 and 2020. In his recommendations, he calls attention to the need for parents to stay informed of the characteristics of new devices, checking their safety before purchasing them.
3.7 Cap. 11: "Talking to Your Kids about Online Risks"
The first section of this chapter brings the text of an "Internet usage contract" to be signed by the child or adolescent and parents. I will describe some of its topics. Never give personal data to strangers. Any uncommon ocurrence will be told the parents, irrespectfully of the device being used. The use of any divice should be done with explicit permission from the parents. Never access pornographic sites or with adult content. Never use chat rooms. Never download games, music and videos that is not explicetly free. Never exchange e-mails, chat or phone calls with strangers. Never fix an encounter with someone met on the Internet. Everyone should be respected on the Internet. If these rules are broken, the right of using the Internet will be temporarily of permanently revoked (p. 163).
The following sections are "How and when to be firm" and "What not to say the teen". The emphasis here is to never back down if the children break the rules, always talk to them before applying a punishment, but never avoid it if necessary. (p. 165). There are interesting common sense recommendations such as speaking to the age of the child, how to keep cool when the agreement is breached (this may have happened unintentionally), never call the child or adolescent as being stupid, etc.
The next section transcribes an interview with a child psychologist. Here is an excerpt. At ages 8-11 have almost no understanding of Internet risks. At ages 12-14 children have some understanding, but are still very naïve. From 15 to 18 years there is some understanding, but the dangers are impulively forgotten (p. 166). Explanations follow, on why these attitudes occur . The psychologist's view is that crimes against children and adolescents due to Internet use can be avoided if parents talk often about the dangers and how to avoid them. Also, it is important to control what their children do and talk with them about their experiences and with whom they had contacts (pp. 166-7).
The recommendations in this chapter form an epilogue for the book. They bring the Smith Safety Road Map, which is a block diagram describing how the child could use the Internet for safe entertainment and learning (p. 168). There are details in each of these.
The chapter concludes with a text with recommendations on how to use the guide and a reminder of the key recommendations.4. My comments
4.1 Positive aspects
This book has a special merit: in the midst of a genuine hype, an uncontrolled enthusiasm for technology and its innovations pervading everywhere, it is a call to conscience that machines have their bad side – very bad indeed. Machines give power to humans, the power of freeing themselves from nature, of creating and destroying. Only if used with awareness and with positive purposes, technology can bring benefits to the individual and to humankind. This book is an appeal to parents to be aware of the technology involved with the Internet, and how to restrict its use by children and adolescents so that it is not misused by their children, especially putting them at risk.
The structure of the book is very interesting because it wants to be practical, providing information and advice to parents about what they can and should do. Recommendations become somewhat repetitive, but this was a need for each chapter becoming self-sufficient.
As to the information presented by the book, here one can apply one of "Setzer’s Laws" (see my Web site): "The misery human beings can produce surpass the worst pessimism." For dozens of years I have written and spoken against the use of computers in education (my first paper about this subject was published in 1976, in the proceedings of a conference of the São Paulo State Academy of Science, of which I am a member) and, more recently, against the use of the Internet by children and adolescents. I already knew some of the problems they cause, from personal observations and readings, and imagined others. However, Gregory Smith presents a reality far worse than I could imagine: the risks presented by the Internet use by children and adolescents are much more extensive and deeper than I knew or thought.
One of the things I admired most in the book was the fact that it calls parents to their responsibility to actively protect their children. In this sense, it goes against the unfortunate and tragic passive indulgence of many (if not most) parents. For example, it clearly says that parents can not falter: if children do not comply with the rules for Internet use, they shall be punished by a temporary or permanent ban on such use. All this goes against the permissiveness embraced by many parents, including the one due to a false "psychologism" that punishments produce trauma. It happens that any trauma thus produced has infinitely smaller negative consequences than any lack of authority, permissiveness and always doing what the child or adolescent want.
I also liked the book having addressed parents of youth up to 17 years of age. This is the age I recommended decades ago as the ideal minimum one for a young person starting to use a computer and, more recently the Internet, because, among other reasons (see section 4.2.2), both require lots of maturity and self-control, nonexistent or incipient before that age. I had personal experiences of teaching principles of computing and computers for high school students, and I found that, up to age 15, they just want to play with the machines. Only after age 17 young people begin to seriously consider this machine a useful tool. Furthermore, only at this age they can really begin to understand the evils it can bring to the individual and to society.
There are many points that I would add to those expounded in the book.
4.2.1 Elderly people. The author draws attention to the danger represented by children’s naiveté. Although the book is directed to parents, in the sense of what to do to protect their children, he might have briefly added that the problem of naiveté also occurs with old people, especially those who learned to use the Internet already in advanced age. By the way, this also happens with people that have a low cultural level, which is quite common in my country (Brazil).
The book emphasizes the tragic side of physical dangers for children and adolescents by what he calls predators, and may lead to physical abuse and even death. It also stresses the pernicious influence of pornography and, slightly, of inciting violence. I supplement with the following pernicious influences:
4.2.2 Undue acceleration of development. As I have shown in many articles and books, computers and the Internet force logical-symbolic thinking in any type of use, because it is a mathematical machine and every command (in the form of text or icon) given to it produces the execution of a mathematical function of symbol manipulation. The user may not be aware that he has to employ such thinking, but there is no way out. This type of thinking produces unilateral and undue intellectual development, because the rest of the child or adolescent, for instance the physical and emotional bases does not follow the intellectual development.
In his chapter 4 (my section 2.4), the author recommends discussing with children the dangers of connecting to the Internet. Unfortunately, this means treating them as adults, unduly accelerating their intellectual and emotional maturity. Children come into the world finding it good, for instance having an immense confidence on it, and this image should not be destroyed too early (see the author’s recommendation on his chapter 4, my section 2.4). Obviously, dangers must be avoided, but it seems to me that what is correct is to build a nest as protective as possible around the child, avoiding the contact with the bad and ugly things that abound in the world. With maturation, the young person will gradually come into contact with the world miseries, and learn how to deal with them, but by then s/he should be old enough to face the disappointment of realizing that the world is not ideal as s/he hoped it would be.
4.2.3 Lack of context. When a parent chooses a book to her child (something relatively rare in Brazil ...), ideally she examines the book to see if suits the maturity of her child, and the presentation and contents are consistent with her conception of education. All education is and has always been highly contextual, not only at home: a teacher teaches something today based on what he taught yesterday, last week, last month, etc. Ideally, each teacher teaches the same content differently for each class, depending on the maturity and interest of their students. However, computers and the Internet generally present material completely out of the particular context (individual maturity, culture) of the child or adolescent. For example, a child can read on the Internet serious articles on global warming, and be frightened by the coming end of the world (I know a case like this, due to the influence of programs on this subject watched on TV).
Speaking of education, observe on the table reproduced in my section 1.3 that 68% of the reasons parents allow children access to the Internet were homework and school projects. Therefore, it is most urgent to make teachers aware that they are launching children and young people into tremendous dangers, besides particular harms to education involved in using computers, as described above. It is absolutely not necessary to use the Internet in education. After all, how was it formerly done without the Web? This did not prevented graduates of becaming scientists (there has never been so many as today), statesmen (I am not speaking of the Brazilian aberration of this concept, which became synonymous with graft, self-interest and corruption), artists, educators (something rare in the Brazilian public education), etc.
4.2.4 Inappropriate content. Smith stresses pornographic or erotic content. However, the lack of context can lead the child or teenager to get in touch with serious material inappropriate for their maturity. For instance, some scientific paper about something the child can not understand or assess, as the case cited in 4.2.3.
One of the nasty things that Smith does not mention is the advertising children are subject to while using the Internet. For example, the popular Webmail provider gmail displays on the right side of each opened email advertisements suggested by the email’s content, eventually also by some records of the user’s past email exchange. Susan Linn, in her extraordinary book Consuming Kids: The hostile takeover of childhood (New York: The New Press, 2004), has drawn attention to the tremendous and pernicious effects advertising has on children and adolescents. Notice the subtitle emphasizing undue development (one of my main arguments against electronic media), stealing the child's childhood. By the way, probably many people as myself don’t pay any attention to that gmail advertisement, but it certainly has a subliminal influence because it is recorded in the subconscious.
The Internet is not adequate for children and adolescents, but if some parent wrongly thinks it is, he should be permanently stay alongside his child while she uses it, as recommended in the book in chapter 2 (my item 2.2). Only this way of controlling its use can be 100% effective, obviously depending on the parent’s mentality. I understand the problem of controlling adolescents, but this does not invalidate the effectiveness of this measure. The alternative, never so effective, is to use blocking and monitoring programs, as suggested in the book, which leads to the next section.
4.2.5 Atmosphere of distrust. The use of any software monitoring Internet activity by children, as proposed by Gregory Smith, produces a terrible atmosphere of distrust in the home, especially with teens. They are developing their individuality, and often do so by producing absolutely normal clashes with their parents. Some of the features of this development are the closure in themselves and irritation with any loss of privacy. What is worse: create an atmosphere of distrust and animosity or simply ban the use of the Internet? This prohibition may trigger a reaction due to social motives, particularly around puberty: "My friends can use their media at home, why cannot I?" In this case, the firmness of action by parents, based on the knowledge that this is the best attitude, gets rid of the problems, or they do not even arise – as it happened with my children because of TV, which I didn't have at home until my youngest child became an adult. Fortunately there were no computers or Internet at that time. A firm attitude by parents, based upon consciousness of the right educational path in general eliminates any conflict. Children and adolescents want to be guided because they know, at least unconsciously, that parents know best what is good for them – as long a parents have good educational practices.
I am aware of the difficulty of prohibiting anything for adolescents aged 14 or older. However, probably there is already some prohibitions for adolescents at that age in any household. For example, responsible parents do not let their children drive a car up to the legally permissible age, or travel alone etc. Maybe these traditional prohibitions can serve as starting points for a ban on Internet use, with the proviso that after puberty it is necessary to explain adequately the reasons for any restrictions.
Another possible, albeit tragic measure is to let the adolescent suffer from the uncontrolled use of electronic media, such as diminishing performance at school, and then ban them.
4.2.6 Diseases. One of the sure diseases caused by the use of computers (and of TV and video games) is overweight and obesity, nowadays endemic in the USA and in other countries. I doubt that anyone in his/her right mind will say that the physical position of a child sitting for a long time in front of a device with a screen is normal (in Germany, the average consumption of TV, video games and computers, including the Internet, is 5.5 hours a day!). The normal is for a child to run, jump, and play imaginatively. Incidentally, one of the tragic consequences of devices with a screen is damaging imagination, because when the screen displays a picture, chiefly with animation, there is no possibility to imagine anything else. Excess weight leads to diabetes, coronary diseases, etc.
4.2.7 Violent video games. Smith does not give emphasis to the problems caused by the use of violent video games through the Internet, such as the popular World of Warcraft. Research has sufficiently proved that violence on TV and on video games produce short-, medium- and long-term increase in aggressive attitudes (which vary from verbal or written aggression up to homicide); see the extensive bibliography on my paper "Efeitos negativos dos meios eletronicos em crianças e adolescentes" ("Negative effects of electronic media on children and adolescents"). Violent video games are the preferred ones by young people. It is very important to recognize that video games have a far stronger conditioning effect than TV. The latter conditions mainly through the image, but video games condition also through actions. Just imagine the influence an action game of the "ego-shooter" type has upon a child or adolescent: as soon as the game is turned on, the player has to start shooting, otherwise the character he identifies with on the screen (horribly called "avatar") is "killed".
4.2.8 Damage to mental development. The lack of physical movement and excessive visual impressions produced by the screens of electronic media, including the Internet, means that there is a lack of proper neurological development, keynote of the neurologist Manfred Spitzer, in his magnificent book Vorsicht, Bildschirm! Elektronische Medien, Gehirnentwicklung, Gesundhei und Gesellschaft [Caution, screen! Electronic media, brain development, health and society], Stuttgart: Ernst Klett, 2005.
4.2.9 Language corruption. Smith gives in chapter 8 (my section 3.4) a list of abbreviations used by young people to communicate on the Internet. Examining messages sent by young people, one is appalled at the distortion of the vernacular. I do not think this is very harmful to adults who have already mastered their language (something relatively rare in Brazil!). However, with young people the effect is certainly catastrophic, because it ends up influencing the way they develop their way of expressing themselves. Without mastering a clear and correct language it is impossible to think concepts clearly and correctly, influencing the rest of the life.
4.2.10 Waste of time. The author does not mention one of the most obvious factors to prevent children and youth from using electronic media: waste of time. Instead of exercising creative activities such as play and real (not virtual!) social interaction, reading, art activities (e.g. learning to play a musical instrument) and handicrafts, by using electronic media children and adolescents waste precious time of their life that could be used constructively. As I mentioned in 4.1, up to age 15 young people just want to play with computers and the Internet, not using them for something really useful. In particular, several studies have found that, in general, the more students use computers, the worse their school performance (see my paper "A critical view of the 'One laptop per child' (OLPC) project", where I quote researches on this subject and give references to them). Researchers try to justify this by saying that the time spent on such use decreases the time spent on homework. This is certainly a fact, but I go much further, and analyze the negative influence of electronic media on the mental capacity.
4.2.11 Consumption of time in monitoring. The author does not mention that his recommendations that parents examine the children’s files and using software to monitor all Web sites visited by them, as well as their emails and IM messages, involves an expenditure of enormous amounts of time by parents.
4.2.12 The author does not reach the ultimate conclusion. If the use of the Internet can be so harmful to children and adolescents, and controlling their use gives so much work (and therefore the tendency is not to check what the children are doing, as evidenced in the survey of Feb. 2005 quoted in the book’s chapter 3, my section 2.3: 23% of 87% of 49% of parents, i.e. 9.8% of parents perform a daily control; 14% do so monthly or less), why not simply avoid its use? In this sense, it would suffice to restrain the use of computers at home, which is very simple: just do not give the children the password to operating systems like Linux, MAC OS or Windows. In this case, only parents could login.
A widespread argument against what I have just advised is the fact that children and teens watch TV, play games and use computers and Internet at their friends’ homes, cybercafés, LAN houses or school. Firstly, this use will be far less than at home, and "infinitely" less if the devices are installed in children's bedrooms. Secondly, in these cases generally young people do not use the equipment alone, but with their friends, giving them some more awareness about what they are doing. Thirdly, one should ask their friends’ parents to not allow the visitor to use the media during the visit, explaining why (if some parents do not comply to the request, it is better to ban visiting their home because of different educational points of view). I included TV and video games in this observation; for the evils of these two, look at my paper "Electronic media and education: TV, video game and computer" which is relatively old but whose arguments are still valid. Unfortunately, I have not translated into English more recent papers in my Web site citing dozens of research results demonstrating that my conceptual analysis was correct.
As Smith points out. one of the worst things parents can do for children is to install in their bedroom TV, video games and computers, including Internet access. In this case, there will be absolutely no control over the type and duration of their use. Unfortunately, this is already happening on a large scale with TV: with the appearance of more modern equipment, parents buy a new one and the old is given to their children. There are very few parents who know the damage that TV causes to children and adolescents, and there are many who, even having some idea, simply embrace the indulgent attitude of leaving the children to do what they want, or use the "electronic babysitter" so that children leave their parents in peace (including watching they preferred shows). If this is already happening with TV, I imagine that most, if not almost all parents do not care that their children have video games, computers and Internet access in their dorm, that is, without any control whatsoever.
In relation to Internet cafés and LAN houses, the use will obviously be limited; it seems to me that there should be a strong prohibition that children and adolescents use the Internet in those places – perhaps even to enter them. I think it will not last long and all arcade games will be connected to the Internet, so parents should pay attention to this when allowing their children to use these places (in fact, they don’t know what evil they are already doing to their children; it is already statistically proved that violence on TV and on video games in general induce aggression in the short, medium and long term).
As for the school, one should look for one that does not use computers and the Internet in education, such as schools that employ Waldorf Education. If this is not possible, one should try to draw the attention of teachers for two essential facts: there is no need for children and adolescents for using the Internet and, as Gregory Smith has shown very well., the danger of this use is very big. The school should follow the guidance of the author and install software to restrict and to monitor access. Strictly speaking, students should only use computers in special labs, where an instructor should be taking care of what use is individually being made. There is no need for the use of computers by students in classrooms. If some demonstration using a computer or the Internet could be useful, the teacher should use a device with her exclusive control. All school principals and teachers should read Smith’s book.
Since I am speaking about schools, I could not fail to touch the Brazilian federal government's project "One computer per student" ("Um computador por aluno"), which aims giving a cheap laptop for each student in public schools, but fortunately has not caught on because of the excessive price of available machines and their maintenance. With these computers, children and adolescents would have access to the Internet without any control, with all the dangers and damages identified by Smith’s book and others that I cited on my papers. In this regard, see my paper "A critical view of the ‘One laptop per child’ (OLPC) project". On this paper, I cite an article from the New York Times reporting that, in the U.S., several schools that have adopted the principle of each student bringing a laptop into school are discontinuing this program, because of the educational disasters that began to emerge.
As frequently happens in my country, the government is embarking on a completely wrong and outdated educational action, ignoring the pressing priorities of public education, such as dramatic increase in teacher salaries, radical improvement in school management (ending the shameful frequent absenteeism of teachers), improving physical facilities and establishing performance evaluation of teachers through what their students have learned. As frequently happens, the government is investing tax money in the worst possible, and extremely dangerous way for the students!
At this point, I cannot abstain from drawing a parallel of Smith’s book to the excellent book by Susan Linn, already mentioned in 4.2.4. The latter shows the immense and terrible effect of advertising on television, especially on children and adolescents. She even regrets that her daughter has to watch advertisements and horrible shows. However, as Smith regarding the Internet, she also does not reach the ultimate consequence of saying that the best remedy is to not have TV at home (I can confirm this from experience: the best gift I gave to my four children was not having a TV set at home until the youngest became an adult, as mentioned above); my six grandchildren, never watch TV. TV does not really have any use for those who read books and newspapers. Certainly it can be used for leisure but as it is not a constructive one, it's much better to use more constructive activities, such as reading, real (not virtual!) social interaction, arts and handicrafts activities, gardening, and sports. On the other hand, I recognize the usefulness of computers and the Internet for adults (for example, being able to read this paper), but not for children and adolescents. For the latter, their negative effects surpass by far any positive ones. One should create at home the view that they are not adequate for children and adolescents, in the same vein as alcoholic beverages, smoking, driving cars under age etc.
Perhaps an exchange of emails with friends of the same age is an interesting activity, very occasionally, for children over 11-12 years of age. But this should be tightly controlled by parents, as Gregory Smith points out. I'm sure, due to my concepts and my own experience with my daughters and my grandchildren that if from birth on children do not watch TV, do not play games, do not use computers and the Internet, they do not feel the need to use them. Perhaps a desire to use them appear at puberty, by seeing their classmates using them, or just knowing that they use them. But at the time of puberty, it is possible to begin to explain conceptually the evils of such use, and the dangers of the Internet very well shown by Gregory Smith.
For these and other positions, several people call me "radical". Unfortunately, when something is harmful to children and adolescents, there is no middle ground: it has to be avoided. Education has always been and is radical: for example, I doubt that parents with a minimum of awareness and responsibility leave their small children play in streets with heavy traffic. The state government of São Paulo has just passed a law banning cell phone use by students in classrooms – isn’t this an obviously necessary radicalism? But there are two educational differences between me and almost all of the parents: I know the evils that electronic media produce on young people, and was consistent in the education of my children according to that knowledge. My three daughters have recognized the validity of my and my wife’s concepts and practice, and are following the same approach with our 6 grandchildren – with absolutely no difficulty, on the contrary, with huge advantages. The problem is that the evils caused by television, electronic games, computers and the Internet are not immediately physically noticeable, as it would be an accident caused by a minor driving his parents car: those evils are mainly psychological, not forgetting physical ailments in the medium or long term, such as overweight and Internet dangers pointed out by Gregory Smith.
Note the title of given to this article: "How to protect your children and students from the Internet." The change to the book’s title "... on the Internet" was a conscious one: Gregory Smith assumes that Internet use by children and adolescents is obvious, and shows how to protect them when they use it. I'm saying that parents should protect their children from the Internet, i.e. the best possible protection is not to let them use it. It is absolutely essential that parents and teachers became aware that TV, video games and computers/Internet are not for children and adolescents!
Nowadays, everyone certainly agrees that a destruction of nature is going on. But very few people recognize that humankind is also being destroyed, mainly psychologically one of the effective ways of doing this is to attack children and adolescents.
I have the impression that most people ignore the evils of electronic media, therefore they allow their children to use them. Others allow it for convenience. The same applies to teachers who give incentive to their students for the use of those media. I hope this article and especially Smith's book call their attention to the enormous harm they are doing to their children and students
It's not an easy work for parents to decently educate their children, but that's the responsibility that they should carry for having brought the latter into the world. There is, however, one mitigating factor: a proper, loving, authoritative but not authoritarian education produces balanced and responsible young people. This will greatly reduce the headaches they will give their parents later, on the contrary, they will produce much joy. Such an education tends to form socially sensitive, active and creative future adults, without the brutality, passivity and lack of imagination induced by electronic media.