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FBI’S INTERNET ADVICE TO PARENTS: YOUR KIDS HIDE PORN ON DISKETTES, GET A PAGER, SEX OFFENDERS ARE MAILING PLANE TICKETS TO YOUR HOME.

February 18, 2014

I’m pretty sure Hunter Moore was still in poopy diapers when the FBI last updated its “A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety.”  Seriously, this is Prodigy-era stuff.   Sadly, this moth-eaten guide was the fourth link down when I googled “talking to kids about internet safety.” (Refer to yesterday’s blog for details about that ill-fated conversation.)

Considering the fact that “[p]rotecting the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes” is the third of its ten articulated priorities in combating threats to American society, you’d expect the FBI to delegate a wee bit of its $8.1 billion annual budget to preventive measures for our youngest patriots. They claim to “lead the national effort” to investigate cyber crimes and articulate a desire to “stay in front of current and emerging trends” in that realm, but yet the FBI’s advice to parents is lagging a solid two decades behind those very trends.

The problems with the FBI’s guide fall into several categories: 1) the graphics, 2) the language, 3) the recommended strategies, 4) the omissions, and 5) the obsession with chat rooms.

The Graphics 

They’re just bad.  Weird drawings of kids with craned necks, sagging jowls, overbites and no eyes — hardly the image of tech sophisticates we adults actually know kids to be. Oh, and there’s a picture of a phone. . .  with a cord.

The Language

Here’s a list of items in the order they appeared (my editorials in italics):

o   “latchkey kid”

o    on-line. Hyphenated throughout

o   Internet.  Capitalized throughout

o   “Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them.”  Is grammar a new invention?  And how much porn can a floppy even hold?  Your honor, the FBI entrapped me with that inevitable pun.

o   “electronic chat”

o   “computer-sex offender”  This term appears sixteen times in this eight page document.   I should be able to articulate why this term is so wrong, but I can’t. I just think of a hairy sweaty middle-aged man in a Members Only jacket and dirty aviators rubbing a TRS-80 up against a PCjr. Okay, I guess I did just articulate why it’s wrong. . .

o   In its definition of the internet it states that the following tools are needed for “people from all over the world” to communicate: “a computer, a modem, a telephone line and a service provider.”

The High Tech Strategies to outsmart a “computer-sex offender”

Again, a list:

o   Check the mail for the cross-country plane tickets the computer-sex offenders are sending your kid.

o   Observe whether your kid quickly turns off “the monitor”  when you enter the room.  THE monitor?  As in, only one?  And as in a desktop monitor?

o   “Keep the computer in a common room in the house.”  Again, the idea of a singular household computer is so quaint when already by the age of tween, many kids are already the sole custodian of as many as three portable devices — a smartphone, iPad, and laptop.

o    “Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or Internet software.  Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.”

o   “Use the Caller ID service to determine who is calling your child.”

o   “Devices can be purchased that show telephone numbers that have been dialed from your home phone.  Additionally, the last number called from your home phone can be retrieved provided that the telephone is equipped with a redial feature.  You will also need a telephone pager to complete the retrieval.”

o   “[Use] a numeric-display pager and another phone that is on the same line as the first phone with the redial feature.  Using the two phones and the pager, a call is placed from the second phone to the pager.  When the paging terminal beeps for you to enter a telephone number, you press the redial button on the first (or suspect) phone.  The last number called from that phone will then be displayed on the pager.”

The Omissions

There is not a single mention of the following: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Chatroulette, sexting, cell phones, Craigslist, identity theft, Facetime, Vine, Tumblr, Meetup, Youtube, Snapchat, smartphones, apps, Skype, gaming, iPads, social media, blogs, bullying, revengeporn, etc.

Obsession with chat rooms 

The scary places on the internet according to this article are chat rooms and “web browsers” and “bulletin board systems.”
My final gripe is this manual’s allowance for passive parenting when it comes to internet safety. For instance, it states that  “parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent on-line.” [emphasis added]   “Should consider?”  No, the absolute consensus is that parents MUST monitor not only the amount of time spent online, but also how that time is being spent.  Mandatory parental monitoring is what the 2.0 version of this guide must be about.  And maybe substitute in thumbdrive for diskette?