Lifelong Learning (beware rant coming)

Okay, last night I had one of those dreams that makes you wake up mad! I’m sure you’ve all had them – so you can understand how I started my morning in a bad mood only to read 2 lines on 2 different blogs that set me off!!

#1 – Chad of Library Voice included a quote from Business Week Online: “You’ve heard that MySpace is dangerous for your kids, but what about for your business?”

#2 – LibraryLaw had an interview with Beth Yoke about DOPA in which she says: “I would describe the atmosphere at the hearing as one of fear. So much of the talk was about how there are untold numbers of would-be murders out there just waiting to snare our children via chat rooms and other Internet sites.”


The problem is not the Internet and chat rooms and MySpace – the problem is ignorance – which breeds fear.

I thought of a great comparison this morning while I was ranting (in my head) on the train ride to work. In the 1970s there was an incident with a boy named James Dallas Egbert III – do you know what I’m talking about?? James disappeared in 1979 and a private investigator surmised that he had disappeared during a live action session of D&D – assumed dead. Was this true? NO! James was a depressed boy who had disappeared to try and kill himself – did he like D&D? Yes. Did the 2 have anything to do with each other? NO!

One other incident led to mass fear – and that was the suicide of “Bink” Pulling in 1982. Patricia Pulling (Bink’s mother) decided that her son had committed suicide because of a curse that was placed on him in a game of D&D. Pulling started a crusade (an insane crusade if I do say so myself) against game makers and players alike, spreading the word that D&D was the work of the devil and those who played these games worshiped Satan. (side note – The Pulling Report by Michael Stackpole is a fascinating read if you want more info on this topic)

What does this have to do with MySpace? Well, I grew up with my mother telling me that D&D was evil and that only Satan worshippers played D&D. I had no idea that it was a role-playing game – all I knew was that it was evil and not to be talked about. Imagine my surprise when I met my future husband at college and he started talking about playing D&D!!! Why did I grow up with this fear? Because (sorry mom) of my mother’s ignorance on the topic. The media didn’t care what the truth was – they cared about selling a story and it didn’t matter that the stories spread by the private investigator and Patricia Pulling were based solely in fear of the unknown.

This is why our government is trying to pass a silly law banning sites like MySpace in schools and libraries. This is why publications like Business Week are starting their article by mentioning the dangers of MySpace to our children.

The only danger out there is misinformation and lack of education (well the only danger related to this rant). When I was growing up child molesters would pluck kids off of school yards – it’s much harder for a kid to fight against a grown up when they are pulling you to their car than when they’re on the other side of a computer screen. Teach your children to not talk to strangers – use safe words (mine was “bubbles”), explain that these sites are fun, but we don’t share our personal information with people online – or people we don’t know. Sit with your kids while they’re on the computer and show them what’s appropriate and what’s not.

But it’s not just kids – education is required for about 12 years of our lives – but what about after that. What did you learn in grammar school that you still use today? Reading, writing, math – those don’t change (although there are some new rules related to commas since I was in school). But what did you use computers for? Did you use computers? Education should be a constant in our lives – we should always be learning – whether in an organized setting or just by reading a book about a topic you may not know that much about. This is why I work on the board of our township’s night school – I love helping people learn about things they didn’t know much about before.

Fear and ignorance lead to silly laws and crusades against things like games where kids (and adults as most of us geeks know) pretend to be elves and orcs and adventure through some far off land.

MySpace is not evil, it’s an unknown and we need to get out there and show people that there is just as much a chance that the “would-be murders” are living 3 doors down as there is that your child will bump into them on the Internet – banning things from children makes them want to use them more – educating them on the proper use of these things however might just turn out to be the right answer.

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  1. Techcrunch ( has pointed out that US House Resolution 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), was passed by a 410 to 15 vote. This is just amazing. Wy are they doing it? It seems to say that kids can’t self regulate themselves against ‘predators’. Well, shouldn’t adults and parents be teaching there children how to use social software, and what the pitfalls are. If kids are barred from using myspace and barred from it, they’ll get around it. Banning is not the answer. Education is a far better way of doing it.

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