As a relatively cyber savvy parent I have made every effort to ensure my teenage daughter is educated about the pitfalls of online communication. We discussed the issues regarding privacy, the dangers of online predators, viruses, and many of the other traps that Lane outlines in this book. Initially we monitored her use of her mobile phone, computer and the internet but as she grew older it was more difficult to insist on access as she naturally became more independent and electronic communication became a feature of her social life. Despite our efforts, and with the disregard for consequences that plague adolescence, she made a stupid mistake, all the more shocking to me because I sincerely never thought it was likely to happen for any number of reasons - not the least being she had been educated about the risks of making poor choices. Luckily it was something we were able to reverse but I quickly realised just how easy it is for an otherwise sensible teenager to give into an impulse and potentially derail their future.
In Cybertraps for the Young, Lane examines the issues that children face online with regard to the legal ramifications of careless communication. Covering topics such as cyber bullying, identity theft, online gambling, fraud and sexting, he uses examples from the headlines to illustrate cases that have resulted in criminal and civil liability for the teenage perpetrators. The law is slowly but surely catching up with new technologies and online users are increasingly being held accountable for their virtual actions.
Lane emphasises the need for the digital native generation to be educated about the responsible use of technology. Few consider the ease and scale in which sensitive information can be used against them both immediately and in the future. Fewer still are aware that they are not as invisible as they may think they are when they navigate the net with fake usernames. In this age of information, anonymity on the internet is a myth that children fail to appreciate.
Lane's specific interpretation of the American legal statutes had only peripheral relevance to me, but I expect that the laws would be similar in most first world countries, including my own. I do think the information is valuable in that it provides parents with an example of concrete consequences to share with their child. Children need to be aware that their virtual behaviour has the same potential for implications as their real world behaviour, and they have the same, if not better chance of being caught.
Lane also offers some practical suggestions for parents wishing to better monitor electronic usage and has established a companion website for additional resources and latest information.
In order to protect our children from both themselves and others, adults need to be aware of the issues they face in the digital age. While the text can be a bit dry in places, Cybertraps for the Young is an informative resource for parents and educators who are concerned about their child's online participation.