We’ve all heard of Big Brother — that omni-present technological eye which tracks our every move with nefarious intent. What hasn’t been heard of or talked about much is Big Mother. I use the term to describe all forms of ‘benevolent’ surveillance. Some examples include tracking chips for your children, the system which allows 911 services to locate by cell phone, or the video camera at your apartment door.
The line of course, is not a crisp one. The apartment camera catches mostly innocent people going in and out and the tracked child might have a completely different view on whether the chip is “benevolent”. Indeed, we are ‘watched’ daily by systems designed with good intentions, but their handiwork can be unsettling. As we move toward having more of our lives in digital form, we enter a phase where Big Mother can have more significant impact in our lives.
The Net Generation
Raising children has never been a simple matter but the Information Age has spawned off a whole new set of potential problems for today’s parents. Never has there been such unrestricted access to so much. The Net Generation are defined by unborn babies with their own domain names, toddlers with instant messenger accounts and preteens with personal journals open to the world.
Just as it’s become nearly impossible for a country to truly control the information flow in and out of the country, so it is in the home. How do parents cope with the fact that you can find websites on literally anything the mind can imagine - and more?
As I explored this topic, I came to find I had more questions than answers and decided to pose these questions to the readers for insight:
- Whose responsibility is it to regulate the content children see on the internet?
- Can we look at other media and apply their usage of regulatory agencies (such as the FCC for television)?
- Being an inherently technological medium, might we look at technological or automated solutions (such as watchdog programs, blacklists, or mayby a V-Chip equivalent for the internet)?
- Are there more potential dangers for offenders to seek out children through public information a child might broadcast on a blog, or IM or chat rooms?
- How might the topic of the comic - monitoring of children - be used? Should parents monitor their children’s e-mail?
- and perhaps the biggest question of all, is the internet actually creating a less safe environment or are people over-reacting?
I’m interested in opinions on these questions as well as any research anyone might be able to point to in relation to this topic.