Adults are becoming increasingly afraid of the Internet. The professed reason, of course, is that it is a dangerous place filled with people who wish to exploit impressionable youth. But the true reason is much different. The Internet is an instrument of freedom and disaffected youth, once limited by their ability to crawl out the window without being caught (made especialy difficult, but not impossible, if you have louvre windows and two barking dachsunds in the next yard like I did growing up), can now virtually cross the planet with a site such as MySpace.
In these days of the Electronic Frontier, of course, such freedom has been perceived as an especial threat to parental sovereignty over children. Indeed, it is! Young people, long limited in whom they could meet by the dictates of their parents, are now able to cast the net ever wider, being able to come into contact with people well outside of the walled garden of contacts allowed them by their parents. What amazing freedom! Now, young people can escape from the restrictions of parents often blinded by their own prejudices and dogmas and discover the people they have always wanted to meet.
“Wait a second!” you say. “What are you saying?!? These young people might be groomed, raped and even killed by adults wanting to take advantage of them!” Really? Then please show your proof. Whilst you are fecklessly trying to find it, allow me to present mine. A 2004 report entitled Internet-initiated sex crimes against minors: Implications for prevention based on findings from a national study, released by Doctors Wolak, Finkelhor and Mitchell of the Crimes against Children Research Centre, discovered that the adults by and large were honest about their motives and that wholly ninety-three percent of meetings resulting from online contacts between teens and adults resulted in consensual sexual activity. Not only that, nearly three quarters of the teens (seventy-three percent, to be precise) went on to have at least a second meeting with their adult lover. Forty percent had at least three meetings and a fifth of them enjoyed the company of their adult lovers so much that they decided to move in with them.
In other words, folks, young people are taking advantage of the Internet to find people they want to meet and would not have been able to meet otherwise, meeting these people and having fulfilling, enjoyable relationships with them. So why are parents so upset? After all, their young’uns are happy, well-adjusted and independent, n’est-ce pas? Precisely. Three things young people should, in the eyes of the mainstream, never be. No, they should be submissive, dependent and ignorant. Otherwise, how can adults possibly save them from themselves?
The study in question, despite the moralising by its author’s towards the end, shows quite plainly how ludicrous age of consent laws are. The laws do nothing but criminalise consensual behaviour between persons fully capable of consent. Whilst NBC and PJ may be trumpeting their successes in entrapping online perverts, reality is much different. Sixty-four percent of first meetings did not take place for over one month from the first contact and many waited much longer than that. The teens truly interested in meeting people from online chatrooms do not fall for the clumsy advances of the folks the vigilantes are ensnaring. No, today’s youth are more discriminating than that. They are simply not as ignorant as many would like to think. It is time to stop treating them as if they are.