Charles Nicolai
Mass Media and Children
Section 401
January 27, 2010

Weekly Response Paper 1

As far as I can remember, when I was growing up I was always the kind of kid that woke up in the morning, ate breakfast then ran out the door to play with my neighbors only to return when I would hear my name being called from my porch to come eat dinner. I watched a few television shows but never enough that my parents would worry about the amount of time spent in front of the television screen. I never got into the whole video game craze, though my younger brother plays more than enough for the both of us. I guess my most vivid memory of experiencing a new media than would be when we (my family) got the Internet.

I was introduced to the World Wide Web when I was in the sixth grade and, at the time, was pretty certain that I was the last person to finally get on. As it turned out I was just about the last of my friends to sign on. Before I got the Internet, my exposure to it was very little. What I knew, and really all I cared about, was that everyone in my class was able to talk to each other all night when we were not in school and I got to hear all about it the next day. One day after school I remember going over to a friend of mine’s who had the Internet. I can remember him showing me how easy it was to make your own website. I actually can pretty clearly remember the first time I experienced a chat room. I also remember the very first words that I read that someone had posted in the room where, and this was in perfect accordance with my mother’s description of a chat room and part of the reason I couldn’t have the Internet, the words “fuck you.” My friend and I left the chat room about five seconds after reading that at the demand of my friend’s father who happened to be behind us.
If you were to ask why I could not get the Internet the answer would probably be very similar to the answer you would get if you were to ask my dad why we don’t have HBO. “Your mother thinks that every word on there is the ‘F’ word and every other scene has a naked woman.” My mother was in the midst of a “moral panic (Livingstone, 2002).” She was so focused on the negative material that we could potentially be exposed to that she failed to even think of the positives that the World Wide Web offered.

It took us (myself and my siblings) about a year to finally convince my mom to get the Internet. And when we did there was nothing that I looked forward to more. At first I was just happy to be online and able to talk to all of my friends outside of school whenever I wanted. After sometime though I began to realize all of the parental controls that my mom had set up. I’m pretty sure that the only thing that I really could do was Instant Message someone. I remember being pretty upset when I tried to search for “skateboarding” and everything came up “Restricted.” Though in true child fashion I quickly began devising ways around my parental controls. I knew my mom’s account was completely unblocked to the web, but I couldn’t fig – didn’t know her password. Then one day I heard my sister ask “Hey mom I have to research something and everything is blocked can you sign me into your name?” and my mom said “sure.” Bingo. I never had more “research papers” in my entire life then when I was in seventh and eighth grade. From then on I was in, free to experience all that is evil in the world. I also found some informative articles as well. Occasionally.

As the years have passed and all of the parental controls have disappeared I was able to experience the Internet for what it really is. On one hand I can understand my mother’s “moral panic”(Livingstone, 2002). The Internet is full of obscene and gratuitous material that children should not be exposed to. At the same time however, the Internet is a great place to learn. You literally have all the world’s knowledge at your fingertips. In hindsight I would have to say that I agree with my parent’s use of parental controls. It didn’t exactly keep me sheltered but it allowed me to learn about certain things when I was old enough to really understand what it was that I was being exposed to.

Livingstone, S (2002) Young People and New Media Thousand Oaks, CA SAGE Publications Inc.