I’ve been chatting online on and off for about 16 years now – yes, I’m that big a Geek – and as I’m now 29, you can see that I started chatting rather early on. 16 years ago, the only chat services were the ones that no one really knew about – just computer people – so the chat was rather “normal” as were the majority of the people. Sure there was lots of GeekSpeak, but it wasn’t a breeding ground for non-Geek weirdos; a subtle but very pointed distinction. For the most part, parents didn’t know about chat rooms, but if they did there was less to worry about, given the people online.
Well, today, Chat Rooms are mainstream, and given the amount of “idiots” in the world (I figure it to be about a 3:1 ratio, normal to idiot,) there seems to be more idiots online than ever before. This doesn’t make chat room users bad people or all chat rooms filled with sexual predators; it just means that you stand just as strong a chance to meet one as you would at the local bar or Mall or some other public place. In today’s world my parents would never have let me online without some type of control, much less have access to the whole of the ‘net – it’s just a different world. technologically, today.
What it also means is that parents have to be more responsible, and I do have a few comments on that as well. The most recent chat room I’ve been in is at MSN, in a room centered around Connecticut residents. The same group of regulars “run” the room to keep order (or disorder as the case maybe) and to kick people out of it that shouldn’t be in there. Who shouldn’t be in there? We sport a proactive 18+ only rule; since most users have profiles, we can see the age of most people. Of course people lie about their age so this is never 100% effective, but it’s the least we can do. We even went so far as to post the rules online so people know about them. About a year ago, there was a 15 year old girl that kept coming into the room, trying to play adult – acting inappropriately, in a sexual manner, and handing out personal information about herself to men that didn’t know how old she really was. Some of the more “active” users got together and called her mother, who was “shocked that such things were going on” and that she would “put an end to that” right away. A month later, the girl was back online; we just keep kicking her out, as our own conscience demands it. Our point of view is that a chat room is not a public venue; it’s in fact a private one. We can throw out the users that are too young; it’s the right of who runs the room. There’s no Freedom of Speech online, unless you control the site/room. Otherwise, it’s not applicable.
That brings me to another thing as well. I catch a bit of grief every now and again because I don’t have any kids of my own, yet I have opinions on parenting. I always get some obnoxious woman that jumps on me for not having kids – like not every mammal is able to procreate. So I’m unmarried and I use condoms while having sex – so that means I can’t have a parenting opinion? This proverbial woman is the same type of woman, that when presented with the chatting situation above, would come at you and say “I can’t be responsible for my child every minute!” and that’s my problem with this type of person. Being a parent means that you live for your children – that’s one of my parenting opinions, and I’ll stand by it 100%. You give up your own rights to personal “happiness” when you have to and you live for your kids – you stop living for only for yourself. If you want to go out drinking all night, don’t be a parent. If you want to dump your kid off at the Mall so you can “get some moments of peace”, then don’t be a parent or at least leave them with family or friends around you so you can catch a break – you have a child and you’re responsible for them for the first 18 years of their lives. If you dump them off at the Mall, fine, but then don’t come running around with the “the mall is unsafe for my child!” because you abdicated your responsibility when you drove away from the parking lot. Overall, in my biased opinion, 50% of the parents today forget this. They have a child, raise it to about 8 and then abandon it to the system and then wonder why the combined influences of their school teachers, MTV, and the CT Shoppingtown Malls don’t make for a well rounded healthy environment.
And all of that to me is common sense anyway! Is it really that uncommon these days?