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yudel (1014)

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Journal of yudel (1014)

Tuesday September 30, 2003
01:53 PM

The book gnat doesn't want you to read...

[ #14980 ]
Over on OReilleynet (, gnat voted "hell no!" to an O'Reilley proposal for a book on content-filtering systems for parents.

I say, hell yes! Here's why:

I think there is a need for an O'Reilly book that would meld together parental concerns with a hacker ethos. Here's what I would like to see discussed:

  • What filters do, and what they don't do.
  • What browsers make it possible to disable pop-up ads.
  • Virus safety for kids.
  • How to disable the AOL instant messaging start-up screen (perhaps by using an open-source alternative)?
  • The fact that the US government claims the right to read our email headers without a search warrant. How do we feel about that? Is that a reasonable standard for monitoring our childrens' email? If not, why do we tolerate other people having that standard for us?
  • Come to think of it, can't you hack together a version of Mozilla that prefetches material and warns about adult or other bogus sites taking advantage of typos?
  • Advocate a very simple anti-pornography federal law: "Any site using meta tags or other labeling to indicate that it is an adult site can only be tried for obscenity in the location where its owners reside or are incoporated, at their choosing"

In the comments, Nat continued:

I don't mind other parents using one while their kids are young, I'm just not going to be responsible for the book that teaches them. It's dual-use technology, and from what I've seen of the parents of teenagers around here, most parents are like rogue nations when it comes to their children. They spy, snoop, invade, and threaten. From what I've seen, no more than 10% of parents would think of disabling a porn filter on their kids computers, even if they were told "but it could prevent your kid from accessing Planned Parenthood and similar sites!" They'd see that as a plus.

If there was some way to keep the book in the hands of parents who feel the same way I do, I'd have no problem. But as there isn't, I would rather not create a book that will help those fascist parents to treat their kids like chattels. I understand someone probably will write the book to help them, eventually, it just won't be me.

To which I respond: It sounds to me like you're treating the parents the same way you complain they're treating their kids. Don't you think parents of teens are open to a fair discussion of the ups and downs of censorship?

I'll tell you: Teenagers is a whole different game than toddlers. Just when you think you've got junior trained to not throw spaghetti on the wall, they turn 11 or 12 or 13 and, whoosh!, the pasta's in play once again. My wife and I have drawn up elaborate, somewhat silly rules for one of our teens -- because it was just too hard for her to take responsibility for herself. I think teens need arbitrary and silly rules, because otherwise they'll cross over the sensible ones.

Nat, if I had a lot more time, I'd be rewriting this and the previous post as a book proposal. Though I would only do it if I could ask Larry Wall for a preface....

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  • Sorry gnat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jdavidb (1361) on 2003.10.01 8:35 (#24594) Homepage Journal

    But you're wrong. Parents are supposed to "spy, snoop, invade, and threaten." Actually, parents and their kids are supposed to be friends, which means they share things about their lives together (rather than slamming the door and screaming "none of your business,"), so the need to invade, spy, and threaten should only exist when that closeness has somehow gone wrong.

    Having perused planned parenthood lately for its stated purpose rather than its real agenda, I can say that the website for teenagers looks like it's only got one goal: convince kids that everyone's doing it. Yes, it'll be fine for that to be blocked in my home while the kids are under 13, and maybe even longer.

    The problem with censorship is when the government takes away your freedom. That's not even related to the issue of a parent training and raising a child. Children aren't given the same freedoms as adults, and that's for a reason.

    The decision to print such a book should be based solely on whether it sells or not; there's nothing wrong with a parent restricting the content their child sees. If you want Raley to see everything, be my guest, but I get the right to raise my kids the way I want, too.

    J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers
  • I consider it my duty as a parent to do those things. I see the problem in the opposite. Not enough parents are doing what they should be doing.

    I may be old fashioned but until my child leaves my house I will shield and educate them to the best of my abilities. When they leave my house, they can do what they want and I will just give my parental advice when asked (and sometimes when not asked).

    I think Nat's opinion is wrong. I think his position is a foolish one.