The Secret War= Teens Vs Social Responsibility

“The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy.” (Alfred North Whitehead)

There is a website for online communities that I absolutely adore:  It’s an unusual mix of teens, parents, and people in the OC biz.  What I find extremely interesting is the strong opinions had by the teens.  When I say strong… I mean “air-tight vacuum view of i’m right-you’re wrong.”  Now, that may seem snarky to say, but it’s the truth, and it also isn’t necessarily bad.  Depends on your view, I supose.

There are several very opinionated teens hell-bent on keeping their internet-freedom.  They cry out in hate toward techno-gizmos that act as internet babysitters, they boast hacking talents, and they spout anti-over protective parents.  There are two extremes that they subscribe to:

1) The parent with no time to parent, so they buy a virtual babysitter that restricts almost everything, hoping that they system will do the job for them, thus leaving the child with no common sense when it comes to life online.   Then they hope expect everyone else to assist in parenting responsibilities.  It’s like the Lynnette (Desperate Housewives) meets Timmy Turner’s parents (Fairly Odd Parents).
2) The parent with an extraordinarily intense outlook– they practically bubble wrap their children to ensure that they won’t fall.  They won’t let their child be online alone, they won’t let their child play gun-related video games, they won’t let their child do anything that could put them in any kind of situation.  They’re like Mrs. Cleaver & Annie Wilkes from Misery  all wrapped into one uptight ball.

The teens posting on that site are upset, frustrated, and starting to take on Martyr attitudes.  They want their freedom.  They want to explore the net.  They think that if their peers cannot take care of themselves online then they ‘deserve’ what they get.  Now… not ALL of the teens on the site subscribe to this mentality, but some of the stronger voices have repeated this viewpoint several times.  Yet– you can’t help but wonder if these teens are representative of their generation, or the sick-and-tired-let’s-complain-to-adults kids.
The problem I have with their attitudes does not have to do with freedom.  I understand the idea that kids should learn how to fall.  If they fall, how will they ever know to pick themselves up?  But as a member of society I want to do what I can to protect kids from predators, illicit conent, and inappropriate situations.  I am worried about the kids who never talked to their parents about safety online.  If a teen never has a conversation with their parent regarding safe sex, will the teen be able to talk to their parent if something goes wrong? Will they ever understand the importance of choices & consequences?  It is not my job to parent, but it is my job to do whatever I can to ensure protection in the worlds that I build.  It’s liability.  It’s insurance.  It’s being a good person.  It’s being a leader.

How do we ask for empathy, show risk & liability, and expect understanding from teens who think we’re out to bubblewrap them?

….this is going to be a conversation I KNOW I will repeat throughout the coarse of my blog & my journey within managing online communities.  Any information, feedback, thoughts, or thought-raising-questions are always welcome.

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