Are You An ‘Internet Illiterate Parent’?

I was reading this Associated Press story in USA Today about how the music industry is suing a mom for her teens’ illegal downloading of over 1K songs. Personally I think these types of lawsuits only make the industry look like a big bully, but that’s not the point of this post. The judge in the case called mom an “Internet illiterate parent” and now the recording industry is going after her two teens (one is 16, the other is now 20).

Reading the judge’s phrase made me wonder how many “Internet illiterate parents” there are out there right now? In some ways the title of this post is more rhetorical since anyone reading this blog is online and can navigate the Web. But evidently there are parents who have never heard of filesharing and who don’t know that teens (and adults) can still find and download music illegally from the Internet. I’m guessing these parents also don’t know what a blog is or how MySpace works or what it means to IM. I can’t imagine that the number of Internet illiterate parents is very large, but it seems to me that if you’re going to buy your kids a computer they can use in the house, you are obligated to become literate.

Take a class! I interviewed a woman named Eileen Mullen for the book who runs a company called Genuine Class that offers computing classes for families in the New York City area. Whatever fear parents (or teachers) have about using technology can and will be overcome by taking classes in a supportive environment like this. And if you don’t have the time or money, have your teen show you the kinds of sites they spend time on and how they work. It’s great quality time you can spend together and an opportunity to share your own values. You don’t have to be Internet literate to know that it’s illegal to steal free music and if you steal enough of it, you might get caught.

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