Monday, May 31, 2010

Selling Sex, Denying Sexuality

They just keep putting words in odd locations around Justin Bieber to get all the pre-teen girls' eyes to gravitate to certain spots in the photos, and it's getting more obvious by the minute. You think this cover supposed to trigger the teen's buying reflex? Of course it is.

Every couple of years adults scramble to turn some young person into a sex symbol so they can exploit them. That's the business. We can pretend it doesn't happen, or we can acknowledge that not only are children sexual, but we're actually profiting from it. Right now, it seems no teen is as exploited as Justin Bieber, and obviously so much of his look is an example of marketing at it's most calculated.

Sometimes you have to really admire the gall of society to stick words at a boy's hind-level on the cover of a CD to entice girls to throw their allowances on it, and at the same time, categorically deny young people the legal ability to have a sexual interest in one another.

Unless of course we were supposed to take that calculated placing to be something different, like a fart taking shape in the words "One Less Lonely Girl" trailing behind him--as if he's become such a sensation even just a fart could cure a girl's loneliness. Seriously, they keep putting words where they want the teen girls' eyes to look, and it gets harder to take any picture of him seriously.

Update: an even more obvious example has been spotted!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ban Facebook, says Principal

Principal Anthony Orsini, of the Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, N.J., has been making his case, urging parents to ban their children from using Facebook and all social networking websites. He's one of a growing number of disturbing public officials committed to advancing a school's jurisdiction over a child's every behavior from the standard eight-hour day to a 24 hour, round the clock, system of control and intimidation, and he's not bashful about it.

Already the response has been partly predictable. Most people are beginning to think that all this Orwellian nonsense spewing forth from certain school officials these days (at least since the infamous Webcamgate) has officially jumped the shark. Now they're entering the land of make-believe where they don't only want control of the students, but they want control of the students as individuals beyond school. They want to legislate how the child spends his or her time beyond school, and they want to accomplish it by intimidating parents to act as their agents of enforcement. And thankfully, people are just getting sick and tired of it.

One of those people is creative adviser and writer Chris Matyszczyk over on Technically Incorrect:

I have barely come to terms with the idea that someone at a school thought it appropriate, wise, or even sane to spy on kids via Webcams on school-issued laptops. Has technology really taken over human thought processes quite so much?

So I temporarily lost the ability to spell my own name when I was confronted with the rather heartening news that a school principal has asked parents to get their kids away from Facebook and any other social-networking site.

His words, obtained by WCBSTV, clearly are as heartfelt as they are eye-shattering: "Please do the following: sit down with your child (and they are just children still), and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social-networking site. Today!"

Orsini asked parents to avail themselves of parental-control software. He asked them to check their kids' messages online. And he asked them to spank their children once a week with their laptops. Yes, of course I made the last one up, but if Orsini were in charge of the judicial system, one suspects that he would prefer the soft cell to the soft sell.

Hark at this from his e-mail: "There is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle-school student to be a part of a social-networking site! None."

Online gaming was not immune from Orsini's troubled tirade: "For online gaming, do not allow them to have the interactive communication devices. If they want to play Call of Duty online with someone from Seattle, fine; they don't need to talk to the person."

He offered that kids should not be allowed to have computers in their bedroom. They should be in a public place where everyone can see what is going on. He would even prefer parents not to allow kids to recharge that family laptop in their own bedrooms.

Of course the reasoning behind all this? To prevent bullying. It's no secret that Facebook is often used as a tool by youth to bully others, and of course, that's shameful. But this is yet another example of the "knee-jerk reaction" to the problem. Restricting all young people's access to social networking sites (assuming such could even be accomplished) isn't going to solve the problem of cyber-bullying. You can't solve any problem by applying broad-stroked, swift, all-encompassing solutions. Bullying needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis. Parents need to be informed in the first instance of any bullying that the school becomes aware of, so that proper actions can be taken to prevent further abuse. Recent anti-bullying legislation in Massachusetts is paving the way for this more common sense approach.

The knee-jerk approach is to outright ban a child's access to information and networking resources, and then sit back and assume that because you've implemented some restrictive regime that the problem has been solved. This will doom your plans to failure, assuming it were even possible to do such. Inside of school, the school has discretion over the child. Outside of school, the school should never think it has any authority over the behaviors of it's students. Children are individuals first, students second. Not the other way around.

Instead, our friend Chris sees a more practical application for this principle's request and proposes one of his own:

"Still, it will be interesting to see just how successful his attempt to bring sanity to his school of more than 700 kids will be. It is not easy to bring sanity to any middle-school student. So much is happening in their heads, hearts, and minds that it isn't surprising that their behavior is so combustible.

Older folks, on the other hand, have no such excuse. How many of them are themselves now burning away their time and intelligence on Facebook and MySpace? How many of them are even trying to befriend their own kids on these sites? I wonder, therefore, whether Orsini's best advice about social networking might actually be more appropriate for adults than for kids.

Exactly, another small mind trying to control a world it will never understand. If the principal is so worried, then why not teach the kids about the dangers he perceives?