Bernard is imminently going to stop being an Infant and start being a Junior. This feels like a huge step, and uniform-buying has commenced. I have even sourced the correct triangular pencils (but only one of them, supplemented by cheap Tesco pencils).
Paperwork for the new school includes the SMART internet user policy:
I know that people online might not be who they say the are. Online games, chat rooms, message boards and social networking sites are fun but they can be dangerous because I don’t always know who I am talking to. I will also always be myself online and will not pretend to be anyone or anything I am not.
The first part of this seems pretty sensible. We discussed it with reference to the in-game chat on Terraria. But using an online role-playing game as an example rather undermines, if you’ll pardon the pun, the second part. To me the internet is a place rather like Mr Benn’s costume shop, where you can have weird and wonderful adventures, talk to people you would never meet in real life, see and hear things you’ve never been exposed to before. To Bernard it’s just the place where you look things up.
I’m not trying to speak universally here, or to suggest that the school rules are wrong; but noticing how deeply embedded the internet is in our life here at Casa U. In a house where it’s usual for wine to be available on the table at mealtimes, alcohol isn’t an exciting mystery to be over-indulged in at every opportunity. We have been using it to find things out, and for entertainment and communication all his life, and we’re rather hoping the netsmarts will just rub off on him.
I never arrange to meet an online friend, no matter how well I think I know them, unless I have permission from my parent, carer or teacher.
On the one hand, I absolutely do not agree to his teacher giving him permission to do meet an online friend, and can’t imagine any circumstances where that would work. Bernard knows that almost our entire social circle consists of online friends, with several of whom we have perfectly ordinary days out with the kids. So again, meeting online friends is so completely normal here that explaining this rule provoked an interesting discussion. And what child doesn’t want to know the story of how his parents met?
I was more impressed by Graybo‘s report from the IT safety talk at his son’s school:
There is much that is good about the internet, but we need to empower our kids to be able to tell the good from the bad so that they get the most from this great resource.
That, I think, is where I’m at with this. Not to outlaw it, but to learn how to enjoy it. Not to assume that everyone you meet online is a reprobate, but to assume that no-one is quite who they present themselves as, and to understand why that is and how it works. In here, shy people can be gregarious, anti-social people can make friends, people having a hard time can get support, people can find out that there’s a name for the way they feel and that they’re not the only one to feel it. A 32-year old woman can step out of a shattered life into a fresh new world, and find a man she would never, ever have met in real life. Give your kids a pair of cynical shades, not blinkers.