What is proper online behaviour?

3 youth in my community have been charged with distribution of pornography, because they allegedly propagated content of an inappropriate nature through electronic media. Believe me, I’m not condoning this behaviour and this post will not be about mitigating or further diluting our cultural or social standards… it’s going to identify the lack of them and how we’ve become desensitized in the process! Fait accompli!

The reaction to the above, presented in the local news media, is to create an awareness program in our schools which will teach what the consequences for this kind of behaviour will be instead of getting to the root truth of the situation… teaching WHY this behaviour is not only inappropriate and wrong, but that it’s damaging and carries with it consequences that reach far beyond the legal ones they create! I’m not saying education in this area isn’t important, but it needs to get to the root of the matter instead of being a reaction to a byproduct.

Folks… we tell our kids that it’s NOT okay to take nude pictures and then share those using cell phones and yet, we tolerate TV or take them to Miley Cyrus concerts. I’m not condemning Miley Cyrus, but some of her behaviour is simply unacceptable! Teaching awareness of socially acceptable behaviour should not begin in our schools, it should begin in our homes and within our families! It’s about awareness, understanding and then choice! Just because “Sex Sells” doesn’t mean we have to buy into it! Teaching (not preaching) and leading by example about what reasonable social conduct (including the use of technology) looks like is where this should begin. We need to think about the kinds of emails we share and the kind of TV we watch, because it says something about us! Most importantly, it says it to our kids!

Our society’s cultural standards have eroded and we seem oblivious! We’re becoming a sad group of technologically dependent introverts who are losing our grasp on reality and our concept of morality! Television and Internet media is teaching or creating a new social paradigm and the future doesn’t look good. Our societal values are coming through mass media and we’re slowly becoming desensitized to good old values. “Good old fashioned values”… they’re not old fashioned… they’re just good values! You don’t look up Sally’s skirt! You don’t disrespect your elders! You don’t disrespect your parents! You don’t disrespect yourself, your neighbours or your friends!

I’m far from being a prude and consider myself to be very progressive and open minded, but things are getting way too far out of hand. We cry for social justice, equality, choice and freedom of expression. We rally and fight for the voice of media to remain free but where has that gotten us? Media is a business and that business is to sell us more of what we tell them we want! I get it… that’s OK to a degree, but I’m here to tell you, what they’re also doing is to sell this stuff to us in a way that is eroding our social values! They have an incredible responsibility but clearly they’re not being responsible! Who is holding them accountable? At the end of the day, does it matter if there is a body to impose proper conduct for the media? We have a very powerful filter in our grasp… it’s called our finger and it can be used to turn off the TV, or not consume some of the garbage we do.

Our minds are like our bodies… if we eat too much junk food and don’t exercise, we get out of shape and lethargic. The same is true for our minds! If we pollute our minds with so much of the banal drivel we see in the form of “entertainment media”, we’ll become a product of what we consume. It’s time to make a choice for ourselves and then, to let our kids see us do that and then explain to them why we’ve made the choices we have. Telling someone that something is wrong is incorrect is a fraction as effective as actually showing them and then being an example of it!

I was a child of the 60 & 70s (call it 4-10 years old). I watched Bugs Bunny & the Road Runner constantly and I’m doing just fine! I’ve noticed that the same cartoons of today have been edited for content (violence) and yet… what about the rest of television? Have you seen Ren & Stimpy or South Park?

What’s with our society’s current fascination with vampires and werewolves? I like a good vampire movie as much as the next guy, but it’s come to a point where if it doesn’t include soft core porn, it’s not a movie! The same is true and more so for television and if you don’t believe me, just watch an episode of “True Blood”. What are we consuming? Why do we seem to need more and more of this sort of stimulation? Are our lives that unfulfilled or without reward? Where will it end or what will be enough?

I’m not at all saying that people can’t figure out that vampires aren’t real (It’s not about the vampires), but it’s the values we’re ingesting through watching that sort of programming that serve to change our views on morality or what is socially acceptable from a moral perspective.

This then trickles down to our kids. It does so because it changes what we’re willing to tolerate, what we will allow them to see and what we won’t. What’s worse though is what’s available to them when they’re not in our home and the choices they’ll make in our absence. It’s also about how we treat one another in front of them! Our kids are mimics. They learn their values from us! I for one do not want to teach kids that disrespecting women is cool. I do not want to teach them that uninhibited sexual conduct is OK.

I want to help them learn and make them aware what this “stuff” is and why it’s all around them. Think about that statement for a minute. Imagine yourself explaining what is available on TV to your child and how difficult that would be. I’m not talking sports, but reality TV, game shows, soap operas, prime time television and the content within many commercials. While we’re at it, why not explain what we see in the news. Do any of us take the time to have these kinds of discussions with our kids?

I want children to understand for themselves (not because I TOLD them) the difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviour because because those are the kinds of adults I hope to interact with in society!  I also want to teach them how to interact with a person directly instead of through a keyboard, mouse and monitor!

This is not up to our teachers, nor should it ever be! It should start in our own homes, within our own families! We should be identifying this and talking about it openly instead of just consuming it…. I was going to say “consuming it together”, but that’s not necessarily true either considering most kids have their own computers, cell phones and access to a television in an isolated area of the home.

I personally don’t want a teacher having the responsibility for educating my child on what is right and wrong! That’s asinine and it’s not their responsibility! It’s completely unfair to expect a teacher to show my child the difference between what is right and wrong. Of course, they need to offer supervision while I’m not around, but my child’s value set should come from within my home and family. It should not be learned in school! PERIOD!

What I’m saying isn’t intended to impede social growth or progress. It’s not at all intended to rail against individual freedom of expression or choice. It’s intended to encourage us to identify what is healthy vs. unhealthy and then to teach and encourage that value set in our families so that our kids will be equipped to deal with stuff when they encounter it. They’ll know the difference and then, they’ll have the ability to make an informed decision based on a solid foundation of understanding and awareness.

This is not about promoting blind innocence or an over simplified perspective like that which was portrayed in “Leaver it to Beaver”. I’m not suggesting that a “Cleaver” society is what we need, but the family values presented in that show were very valid! We’re not simpletons and we have the ability and intelligence to choose to understand and recognize the difference.

I’ve been watching the erosion of society since I was a teen. I was very aware of it and I’ve always been. I knew the difference because my parents took the time to teach me!

By the way… ask yourself if you’ve been affected by it. If you’re old enough, please consider your life today vs. when you were a teen… call it 20 years ago… or 30, or 40 if you’re that old. Do you think your value set is different today than it was back then? I know mine is. Let’s ignore the context of sex for a minute and look instead at economics. How do you buy and value stuff today compared to 20 or 30 years ago? We’ve been helped and encouraged to become mass consumers who quickly become dissatisfied with what we have today because of what will be made available tomorrow. It’s created a society of “entitlement” and expectation instead of one of gratefulness and contentment. I’m not saying that having stuff or even nice stuff is bad… but what version of Go Pro are we on now? iPhone 5 with iPhone 6 in the wings? Think about it!

Back to the kids who are being charged, someone said to me about them, “they were probably not aware of what they were doing anyway”. “They probably didn’t know the consequences or even that it was harmful or wrong and were just being kids”. That’s the point of what I’ve written here today. They were just being kids and they need to know the difference because they acquired he behaviour somewhere or from someone.

We have a choice with regard to moral foundation and reasonable acceptability in our future of our society. We can continue to lick the lollipop of mediocrity and continue to be spoon fed what comes our way, or we can make a personal choice to become aware of what is happening all around us. If we choose to embrace the latter, we can then choose to effect change within our homes and families.

The choice is yours!

By the way… While I’d like to hear your opinion in form of a comment, I’d rather you instead offered those thoughts for discussion within your family. That’s the point behind this post.

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