Gated or X-Rated?
July 13, 2010
Across the country, schools are removing vending machines that contain sugary sodas on the grounds that kids should be kept clear of anything that might contribute to the obesity epidemic. The first lady has made reforming school-lunch programs a high priority so that kids will consume only nutritious, healthy fare. Schools are already “drug-free zones” and “gun-free zones” — at least officially — and they have “zero tolerance” for all sorts of things. Sometimes this impulse to protect children can go too far, lending to a stultifying climate of political correctness. But nobody on the mainstream left or right disagrees with the principle that schools should be safe havens for children. And kids should be safe not just from violence, drugs, pornography, and sex predators, we agree, but also from more mundane threats, such as profanity and political indoctrination.
After school, when in loco parentis ends and actual parenting resumes, the same principles apply. Not all parents can live in safe and decent neighborhoods, but all good parents would if they could. None like the idea of their children turning a corner into a bad or dangerous situation in which they could be abused, exploited, or exposed to malignant influences.
Now consider the Internet. On the Internet there are no good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods. The Web is like one vast expanse with no zoning of any kind. Nice homes sit next to crack houses and porn theaters operate adjacent to playgrounds. The “distance” between websites is somewhere between nonexistent and trivial; indeed, the very concept of distance is inapplicable. For years, WhiteHouse.gov, the president’s website, was just three letters away from WhiteHouse.com, a porn site. (The owner eventually closed down the site out of regard for his kindergartner son.) YouPorn, often called “the YouTube of porn,” is a mere four letters away from YouTube. And there’s hardly a bouncer at the door: The only thing separating a ten-year-old from YouPorn is a disclaimer telling visitors they must be over 18. the rest