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04-Feb-2017 13:15 by 5 Comments

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It has been argued that the discourse of innocence turns children into helpless victims in constant need of adult protection, through re-productions of children representations as both structurally and innately vulnerable (Meyer, 2007).One concept that proves useful is structural vulnerability (as opposed to physical or social vulnerability), which is constructed through asymmetrical power relations (mainly between children and adults) and reinforced by the discourse of innocence.

First, a safe assumption would be that teenagers tend to keep their Internet communication ties in their close circle of friends and real-life acquaintances (peers), rather than adventuring outside (Barbovschi & Diaconescu, 2008, Annex, p.250).Although the debate will only advance when it transcends the futile oppositions between optimists and pessimists or technophiles and technophobes, this rough categorization of opportunities and dangers, from both children’s and adults’ perspectives, organizes what follows.In addition to this, I will try to avoid the rhetoric of moral panic, doubled by the "moral quality of the discourse of innocence" (Meyer, 2007) intertwined with the sacralisation of childhood.low physical self-esteem, high dating anxiety) and the recreation hypothesis (sexually permissive people and high-sensation seekers who value the anonymity of the Internet).However, in the case of teenagers, specific conditions such as peer pressure and the nature of the online communication might work in a completely different direction: popular teenagers, with high physical and social self-esteem might have a higher probability to engage in online-offline dating (due to the high visibility to their circle of friends, classmates or schoolmates).However, the great increase in the frequency of online-offline dating - 33% from our sample report having met offline at least one person they met online, in comparison with the first Youth Internet Safety Survey 2000 (Wolak, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2002), where only 7% reported face to face meetings with online friends, and 2% who described the relationship as romantic - requires a closer look into the mechanism of this particular practice.

As one can easily notice, most research in this field has focused on "what the media do to children" as opposed to ‘what children do with the media’ or, as pointed out in a review of Internet usage written by Livingstone (2003), most research on the usage and impact of the Internet actually ignores children.In light of the fast pace of Internet adoption and the spread of new uses, it becomes more and more necessary to view the children as skilled agents in using different Internet tools, often more skilled that most adults: On the contrary, the discourse of innocence is reinforced through calls for adults to ‘do more to make the Internet safer for children’.Such demands assume that children need adult protection, which is incongruent with claims that children tend to be more skilled at using the Internet than their parents. 89) Although critics could argue that this is precisely the problem: they are skilled, but not self-reflexive and they lack the maturity to grasp the whole meaning and possible implications of their actions, I feel strongly that a shift in perspective is necessary.The topic of online victimization of youth has started to grow in breadth and coherence, with valuable studies focusing extensively on online sexual victimization (Finkelhor, Mitchell, & Wolak, 2000; Mitchell, Finkelhor, & Wolak, 2003a, 2004), or even more specifically, on online harassment (Ybarra, Mitchell, Wolak, & Finkelhor, 2006) and Internet-initiated sex crimes (Walsh & Wolak, 2005).More recent approaches suggest that an authoritative, adult viewpoint to youth’s behavior online that would further emphasize parental control is only prone to produce normative statements, panic-driven recommendations, without a comprehensive understanding of “what the kids are really doing online” (Goodstein, 2007; Wolak, Finkelhor, Mitchell, & Ybarra, 2008, p.2).While on one hand, there is the mainstream panic voice that calls for safety precautions when surfing the Web (doubled by the fear that adults will not be able to keep pace with the technological perspective), on the other hand we have the perspective of skilled, rational, utilitarian adults, using the Internet for various instrumental purposes, including sexually related.