Monday, May 3, 2010

Child Panic Button for Facebook

A British group has urged that a panic button be added for Facebook users to protect them from pedophiles and internet predators. The murder of a teenager was linked to the site and a serial rapist used the site to lure a girl to her death.

The idea that some sort of panic button is needed or would even help, is fundamentally misguided and flawed*. I don't even know how the originator of the idea would have thought of it and can only wonder why the fact that it simply won't do anything hasn't been pointed out.

The reason it won't work should be obvious. The crimes do not occur on the web.

It seems obvious to me, but apparently it is not obvious to others. If a man manages to lure and murder a boy or girl then that means that until the moment where they were physically trapped and killed, the victims did not understand that there was any danger. Since they never felt threatened, they would never have used a panic button, even had it been available.

Instead, had they been adequately taught about the fact that on the internet, anyone can pretend to be anybody else, they would have known that it's best to be cautious about people you haven't met in real life. Whether they would then have simply stopped chatting to these strangers, or whether they would never have started chatting to them in the first place or even whether they would simply have made sure they met with these strangers in a public place, with friends around and family who knew where they were and who they were with, they would not have been in the dangerous situation that led to their deaths.

What is needed here is not some magic button that will make pedophiles and rapists disappear. There is no such button and not only does any button pretending to be so not work, it also gives internet users, particularly children, the wrong attitude to internet safety. The only way to be safe on the internet is to be aware of the dangers and apply proper caution. Just as you would, or should be, appropriately cautious about meeting and trusting strangers in the real world, you must also apply proper caution and care when meeting and dealing with strangers on the internet.


* Though the word I want to use is "retarded".

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