This blog post is inappropriate for people under 99.
Yesterday, the “Boulevard Baden‘s” cover page – a gratis printed newspaper spamming the mailboxes in my city every Sunday – was showing the headline “Minderjährige beim Online-‘Strip” [minor (female form, eds. note) “stripping” online]. Next to it a huge photograph of a little girl using a laptop.
Usually, such an article wouldn’t call for any comment and anyone voluntarily reading it had nobody to blame but himself. This is also true for this case. However, I read the article on my way from the mailbox to the trashcan and it combined so many stereotypes and examples of poor newspaper writing that I felt like writing a response.
Reading the article it soon turned out that the little girl actually was a twelve year old boy. Instead of stripping – or doing something related sexual – he had been playing an online game and chatting with a man with whom he later met in real life and they agreed to meet again to play computer games and watch some movies. As his parents found out, they were not so amused about this new friend and – instead of asking him to introduce himself to the family so they could make their own picture or simply telling the boy not to meet him anymore – immediately called the police. Police did its job and found that the man had “keine schlechte Absichten” [no bad intentions].
The article writer further felt the necessity to emphasize that the police did find the man having knifes, condoms, digital cameras and a blank-firing pistol in his car. (The plural forms are literally translated from the article. However correct they may be…) All items apparently made for the single purpose to rape a little boy and of no further use when having in a car.
On the newspaper’s website they had to add that the man could give a convincing explanation for having these things in his car and that he had never come into conflict with the law. Also, the “älterer Mann” [elder man] from the printed article all of a sudden turned into a “selbst noch kindlich wirkende […] junge Mann” [seemingly child-like young man].
The author further concluded that “In der realen Welt werden Kinder behütet und an die Hand genommen. In der virtuellen Welt aber werden sie oftmals alleine gelassen und unbewusst den größten Gefahren ausgesetzt.” [In real life children are protected and taken by the hand. In the virtual world however, they often find them left on their own and unintentionally fall prey to the biggest dangers.] It is quite interesting how he got that opinion from the story. Was the “biggest danger” that the boy had been surfing the web without protection or that he went to meet a stranger in real life without his parents “taking him by the hand”?
He was also literally shocked that at most ten percent of the parents know what their children are doing on the Internet. (“Erschreckend: Maximal zehn Prozent der Eltern wissen, was ihre Kinder im Netz machen”) This questionable statement was followed by the delicious finding: “und das in Zeiten, in denen es sich Extreme, Pädophile und andere Straftäter im Netz gemütlich machen und ihr Unwesen treiben.” [and that in this times of extremists, pedophiles and other criminals having their fun on the web and doing their mischief]
I don’t want to say that parents shouldn’t be concerned about their children’s activities on the Internet – quite the contrast! But even less than forgetting about the dangers of the Internet, they should forget about the “dangers” of real life. Rape and murder doesn’t happen online, it happens in real life. If you read the whole story of the boy, you find that his relationship to his parents couldn’t have been the best even before that incident. Why else should his father have had the necessity to “wird misstrauisch, überprüft die Netzwerk-Kontakte seines Sohnes und wird fündig” [become suspicious, check his son’s online contacts and find out] instead of just talking to his son? Why did the child feel the need to seek for an online friend to play and hide him from his parents?
Strange people probably have existed for as long as mankind exists and I don’t think that they’ll ever stop. Parents should rather make their children aware of them than hiding this fact away. And after all, police can’t be a replacement for parental education. I’m pretty sure that the problem is not within the Internet but our society. The Internet is a wonderful thing – even for young people.
If you find it useful to have a knife, a digital camera or condoms in your car, better double check your intentions. And if you are a little boy (didn’t you read the first line of this post?!) looking for an older friend that little boys always used to have enjoying what they could teach them – well, then you’ve probably picked a bad time to be a young boy…
P.S. If you have children and are concerned about their privacy, make sure they only browse the web with a free browser on a free operating system. Also talk to them to not register at sites like Facebook that have their marketing in mind rather than their users. You will not like big companies to make money with “legally stealing” you child’s data without you or the child knowing this. Nor you would like to have this happen to your own data, don’t you?