Good parenting is best Internet safety

Internet safety has been a discussed topic as of late. Again. It’s an issue worthy of discussion for sure as long as any and all sides remember that we are always dealing with human beings and not some monsters.

However, we all know that’s not going to happen. Almost every single side will want to drive their narrative through and paint everyone else with bloody red colours and have them crucified for going against what they believe is the solution.

Children, of course, are in the crossfire in all this, and are more or less the ones who go unheard of. I’ve been lucky enough to meet with parents that have been more aware of modern Internet than what I was taught, but that’s mostly because I share very similar roots with their Internet usage and experiences. In the 90’s there very little you could do to limit your kid’s access to certain sites and even the most innocent test URL could yield interesting results. I remember. giving me a porn site somewhere in 1998 or so, and we laughed it off with bunch of friends.

This what kids usually do, if they are informed well enough. The best safety a child can have from the so-called dangers of the Internet is information. However, not all parents are willing to discuss hard issues with their children and that is very sad. Our children need to be protected without a doubt, but they are the best protection themselves. Pampering a kid with a hugbox and covering them from difficult issues and other matters that may hurt their feelings or psyche is detrimental on the long run. Experiencing these matters is what holds the key here.

Internet Matters is an organisation with good intent, to a large extent. However, they fail incredibly short with their initial approach that all the things they list on their site is automatically negative and bad. We are dealing with humans here at both ends of the keyboard, and the best thing we have is to remember that we all have our curiosities and preventing the venturous spirit of a child can be highly detrimental. Yes, talking with your child is the most recommended and apparent way here to prevent things from going wrong online and that’s great. However, there’s no guidelines anywhere how to prevent the child from acting negatively online. The automatic assumption here is that a child is always the victim, but in reality there are numerous teen, preteens and younger who are always on the offensive in chats, image boards and online games. It goes both ways.

Their example stories used in their videos are incredibly hilarious. Some of them are pretty valid in the end, but then you have the classical more or less ignorant video about online gaming. Jack’s story is about him experiencing a negative online co-op session, where he shot another player in the back and was all around a bad member of the team. Even before the meat of video hits in I already have quite a many questions about parenting here. First, Jack doesn’t seem to be old enough to play whatever game he is playing. It sounds like some Halo or similar. Halo is a PEGI-16 game series outside Spartan Assault. Then again, Jack is playing on what looks like a keyboard. This is like having Atari 2600 game sounds on a PlayStation game again.

Anyways, the game is clearly meant for older audience than what Jack is. Why does he have access to this game? It’s up to parents to say whether or not their child is old enough to have an access to something even when these products are meant to contain materials that a more experienced person can handle by design. Of course, if Jack’s father is an alcoholic who beats his wife every week, playing some Halo weights jack shit in his psyche balance.

Outside that, Jack clearly has anxiety issues and is frightful. Why is he then left alone with his devices and with no parental overseeing? He is on verge of tears before the chat and shit talking even begins. This kid got issues that has nothing to do with Internet safety or online gaming and needs professional help.

The whole chat is really nothing special in reality. In this narrative diven bubble it tries to show how a child is a victim of cyber bullying or similar, when in reality it’s just basic shit talking. Competitive gaming brings out the same passionate emotions any competition would and people can, and often will, act like total dicks when their loses because of one member. In online gaming it is possible just to be lumped together with a player who will simply screw the whole team. It’s not too uncommon and happens to everybody. While the person Jack is chatting with acts like a dick, he is justified to some extent. Jack clearly sucks at the game and even admits to it. Whatever anxiety issues Jack has kicks in when he gets called out, and I guess he has some self-esteem issues as well.

This online chat didn’t turn bad in just one click. It was bad before Jack even agreed to chat. There’s something wrong with Jack and his over sensitivity, and only his parents with a help from a professional can help the kid.

All aside, the video is blatant try to drive the narrative on how kids are victims here. Youtube is full of kids talking shit with players of same age and older. They may be cringingly bad, but it’s something that simply takes place. When you want to win, you want to psyche your opponent into submission or yell at your teammate for shooting you in the back. Jack’s depiction is that of an overly sensitive child who has an access to a game that is not meant for his age. He does not have enough experience to handle the game, either offline or online. Jack learned a good lesson with the experience as depicted in the video.

It’s easy for me to say that kids need some level of tough love while really no need to show any. A thick skin will carry a person a long way in life. Protecting curiosity should not be shielding children from the possibly bad things, but protecting that curiosity from being extinguished.

Filters are solution to a parent that doesn’t have time to educate and raise their child. They have their place to some extent, but I would encourage the use of most basic parental controls combined with good parenting. The Internet was designed to allow a person to access any information there is, and a clever kid is able to circumvent filters if necessary. Pretty much all 1st grade students I know regularly do that without their parents knowing. These are the same parents who give their child an unrestricted access to smartphones too. We can design all these devices to keep everyone from accessing anything that could inflict them negatively, but that would take away their point. We can’t artificially design life to be happy and dandy, we need to make it such. It takes experiencing bad things to enjoy the good things, and sheltering children from realities will only mean they can’t handle those realities when the shit hits the fan.

Jack’s case is having an access to a game that he could not handle. That’s not a matter of Internet safety, that’s a matter of parenting, as it always really is.

Children really don’t know Batman, but they know LEGO Batman.

There a thing I wanted to leave as its own entry from the kids. That is comic books. Without a doubt these children do read comics, but not super hero comics. It’s all about Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck, both which have the superior local and European content. They know these Disney characters very closely and understand that every story is its own thing and that the long stories are divided into multiple parts. I love this concept so much. By having multiple shorter stories before a longer story that can take few weeks to finish is an excellent way to have any occasional reader enjoying the content while offering subscribers to enjoy these longer stories whenever the magazine arrive. When I was a wee lad myself, we had Donal Duck coming for multiple years under a subscription, and you could very well see at what point the quality of the stories went down. They were still fun, but coming from people who read Carl Barks in their childhood, and then Don Rosa later on, some of the modern stories feel a bit hollow.

That’s of course a personal opinion, and as much I absolutely love Rosa’s detailing and keeping up with Carl Barks, there are those who dislike them for the exact same reason. Romano Scarpa should be a name any comic book enthusiast knows and I personally consider my childhood’s de facto Disney illustrator. Manuel Gonzales was chosen to be Floyd Gottfredson’s follower in Mickey Mouse comics, but I have to say I was never into the Mouse all that much. Honourable mention goes to Daan Jippes, who is an excellent stylistic imitator, who still has a strong stories. Daniel Branca is a name that I tend to forget a lot when it comes to Duck comics, but dammit if the man’s work isn’t great. There are numerous other names, and the local Donald Duck has listed all the names most recognised names from the 50 plus years the magazine has been published in Finland.

Oh yeah, super hero comics. Children don’t read them.

During the last fifteen years, and more actually, when I discuss Marvel or DC characters with children, they do not recognize their current comics to any extension. This may sound weird, but the majority of them are known by their TV and movie appearances. Whenever I ask about e.g. Batman, I end up discussing about the Tim Burton Batman movie. Later the discussion has seen some hues of Nolan’s Batman, but it is the Burton Batman that is still up there in the public mind. You also have Batman: The Animated Series there, which older teenagers and older remember fondly to the extent to regard it as their favourite Batman incarnation. Can’t fault them for that.

Marvel comics see much more publicity here, mainly because X-Men and Spider-Man magazines have been running here for somewhat long time. Nevertheless, most people have never bought or touched them and much like with DC, know these characters from the screen. 20 something know the movies somewhat well and I have noticed that the Marvel movies are the first contact with some of the characters.

But nowadays you barely have DC or Marvel cartoons on TV. You have Arrow and the Flash representing the higher calibre of live-action production from the DC side, but the few good animation series seem to get cancelled after a season or two. Batman the Animated series ran for 85 episodes. The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold saw 65 episodes. Beware the Batman has 26. Often it felt that we were getting a new Batman show right after the next ended for no apparent reason. Green Lantern had a pretty damn good animation series with only 26 episodes.

Can you fault anyone knowing comic book characters from these, when the comics themselves go unread?

Josh Hadley once said that Warner Brothers treats their comic production as an idea company. They are letting DC to do whatever they want with them to a large extent, but keep the creators in a tight leash with contracts. The work these authors do, the characters and stories they write and illustrate, often than not belong to the company they work for. This is how it should be, but the editors and other people in charge just don’t seem to handle the characters properly. Sure, there has been occasional contracts that screw the original authors completely sideways, but in general you have to remember the core rule; you work for the company, they own your work. If you want to own them for yourself, you work for yourself.

Anyway, do you know where these children know Hulk, Iron Man, Batman and other characters? From LEGO sets and games. Same goes for Star Wars to a large extend, now that we’re talking about LEGO. It’s no wonder such sources are now the first touch with the children, seeing the how the comics are anything but child friendly. They’re filled with gross violence and death with characters that don’t even resemble their iconic versions anymore. Then you have the constant crossing storylines, going everywhere with everything with everybody. A friend of mine wanted to read some Marvel Ultimate comics, dropped after seeing how messed up the storylines began to go just after few issues.

It raises a question on brand recognition, when the comics themselves are the secondary products nowadays. DC’s New52 didn’t help to make any significant impact and Marvel’s upcoming reboot is already convoluted as all hell. Depending on what sort of type comic the reboot will be, Marvel has now a chance to reorganise themselves back to being a company that produces comics for the whole company and not just for the 40 years old comic readers. That is not, and has never been, very lucrative market, but somehow both DC and Marvel have been able to stay afloat with their limited target market. Then again, Disney has been raking in some seriously big money with the Marvel movies, so perhaps the comic companies are doomed to stay as idea factories. Companies producing these niche comics have to realise that the comics used to be something that as enjoyed at a very large scale, but nowadays that seems to apply only to the movies based on these comics.

I am genuinely worried where the super hero comics are going. If they are becoming more and more convoluted and pushing the general public away from- no, they already have been pushed away with comics mostly sold in comic book stores in US and UK. Both DC and Marvel need to reclaim their larger comic audience and begin to produce comics that parents could allow their children to read. There is room for comics of all kinds, for every sort of reader. However, it would take money to realize larger scale production and publication, money that the current comic trends don’t bring.

Kids say the darnest things

I’ve been working with kids on and off ever since I turned ten. I’ve got experience with kids from three different decades with varying ages, from three or four years olds to teenagers. The work has ranged from your normal summer camps to daycare centre work, and to weekly hobby club. Between these three, and everything including and surrounding them, are sort of honest mirrors what are the current things that are in. It’s not too uncommon to see children to have more knowledge what seems to be more popular than their parents. Of course, there is the division between children’s, adolescents’ and adults’ matters, but if we know anything about fandoms at this point is that there is far more overlap between all of them than we want to admit.

One thing I discussed a lot with first grade boys was Minecraft. While I don’t personally care for the game, the children are more than well versed in it. They can cite what materials can build what tools, how certain structures are best to build and how to farm Creepers like no other. While I should not be amazed how much they know, just the amount of logical thinking they made among each other incredible. Comparisons between real world materials and Minecraft voxels, thou there was more than few inaccuracies between them. For example, they claimed that any stone is stronger and harder than steel, which I responded in taking a normal stone outside and scratching it’s surface with an utensil.

I asked about certain other games that are more or less popular with the older population, but the children claimed them to be boring, thou few claimed that Skyrim was one the best games ever made. Period. It’s a good question how a six years old children are given access to the game, but if the parents regard the content and the kids old enough to play it, then who am I to say anything to the matter? Interestingly, Super Mario Bros. was regarded either too immature for their age or to me, but after asking if a good game has an actual age target group, the kids say such a thing would be stupid. I agree with them; why not make a great game everybody could enjoy regardless of their age?

The girls had less interest in games overall, mostly knowing of them but not really giving a damn about them. While most of them did say they play occasionally, it was more than apparent that they had no interest in gaming overall. Mario Bros. was one of the series they knew best, but even then they really had other interests. All this just makes more apparent that forcing products directed at an audience that has no interest in said product at the expense of the current consumerbase is stupid and more or less futile.

All this shows that Minecraft has been an insanely big hit. It defies everything people think about games, it being all game and no story, encouraging creative and logical thinking without directly hand holding the player’s hand, educating or enforcing ideas.

And apparently Super Smash Bros. For Console X is not a good game because nobody can be killed.

Last year there was a huge amount of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles discussion, and we had funny discussions where we compared the Nickelodeon Turtles against all previous versions. Few of them were interested in how, for example, Shredder was completely different in his 2003 iteration, being an Utrom and all. Actually, explaining what makes an Utrom, Krang and the Kraang stand from each other, but gladly the kids always want to me to draw something for them, so illustrative explanations are easy to make. Similar thing applies to Transformers. G1 setting has seen so many different variations of it that it’s a no brainer for the children to see connections and differences between the different series. We actually had a lengthy discussion whether or not Optimus Prime’s cannon should be transforming from the hand or a separate entity, and similarly if Prime should have a sword or an axe. One of the boys defended the axe idea by saying that it would be cooler.

Speaking of drawing, both boys and girls really enjoy whenever I doodle with them. Fairies, ninjas, angels, robots… some things seem to never change. Every time they ask how I’m so good at drawing, and I just have to tell them to practice. Sometimes we just sit there for an hour or two, discussing how to hold pen, what sort of paper is good, what colours are best and so on. My quick render of Lien Yun from Gekisatsu! Uchuuken was met with enthusiasm. Pre-schoolers deemed it as a pretty angel of protection while the first graders saw her as a Chinese princess with an attitude.

However, the most important thing is that when they asked me to draw robots, I did doodle a Mazinger and a generic Obari robot. The kids liked Mazinger better, because the Obaribot was too much and didn’t make any sense. After discussing it further, it seems that at the core design Mazinger simply works, whereas Obaribot was met with confusion due to its stupid appearance. It’s hard to explain, but the visuals Obari usually employ just seem too busy, stupidly complex and overall unattractive to certain degree. Perhaps it was the generic outlook I used, or just that locally the kids don’t like that appearance. However, the latter doesn’t hold water when you take notice how modern Transformers does have Obari inspired elements and so on.

Girls on the other hand still like princesses, fairies and all the stuff that is typically seen stereotypical for girls. This is not a bad thing at all, as the same things repeat with girls’ interests. I admit that I don’t have the same level of understanding of girls’ popular culture, but things like Little Mermaid, My Little Pony and pretty things seem to apply. I feel sort of awful that I can’t say much on girls’ interests. However, one thing I can say for certain that when it came to board games, the girls were more than eager to play them.

However, crafts was something both girls and boy did equally as much. Visuals were a bit different, but that’s nothing to scoff at. It’s a positive thing to see children of either side of the fence doing what are essentially the same things, just differently. These children don’t really know how to lie yet, mostly exaggerating everything to a large degree. They’re a small mirror of the grown up world with less haze in the way, and with no politics or bullshit ideologies attached. If adults could keep similar simple and honest attitude to the world, with the best elements and without all the bullying selfishness sometimes causes. I guess we all could live slightly more in peace.  I guess I too have an ideology consisting of a world where we wouldn’t need to cause harm to each other or force ourselves on other while still giving a hand to those who need it simply because it would be the right thing to do.