Lamenting the loss of innocence

Published 10:06 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

Not too long ago, I befriended this kid. He’s 10 years old. He is a pretty cool kid and a lot more intelligent than his age would seem to indicate. Sometimes in conversation, it can become really easy to forget this little boy is, in fact, only 10 years old. He speaks more like a teenager than he does an elementary-aged child.

Over the summer, we would frequently shoot basketball and he would tell me about the latest Internet-based game in which he had gotten involved. All in all, it seemed this kid pretty well had it together.

As the summer wore on, work picked up and I became more and more bogged down. I was less able to spend time with him. So the occasional Facebook message has been the bulk of our communication in recent weeks.

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Facebook is a funny thing. On the surface, it seems a pretty safe, harmless social networking tool. Having used it since its inception a few years ago, I would have no qualms with allowing a child to use it.

But, thanks to the Web site’s Big Brother-like news feed in which anything done by anyone on your friend list appears on your home page, I have recently come to the realization that this social networking site is not nearly the wholesome Internet destination I once thought it to be.

See, my 10-year-old friend has been taking a series of quizzes. In and of themselves, Facebook quizzes are nothing about which to get stirred up. They vary across a wide range of subject matter, most of which is more humorous than offensive.

However, this particular run of quizzes was less-than-ideal for 10-year-old eyes. It covered a topics like “What is your sex style?” and “What is your favorite sexual position?” The quizzes even featured depictions of the positions or styles in questions.

Call me archaic or idealist, but the thought of a 10-year-old being exposed to these things stirs an incomparable discomfort within me. I mean, I remember being a teenager and first becoming curious about such things. But I also remember being 10 and not caring. It is an unfortunate truth of our society that a byproduct of the rapid dissemination of information made available via the Internet is oftentimes the rapid disintegration of youthful innocence.

I mean, as adults, we understand that the world is difficult enough. Navigating through the allure of bright lights and assorted vices is a trying enough task in adulthood.

But to think of a 10-year-old boy face-to-face with content and concepts intended for those much older is disheartening.

Maybe I’m just thrown off because at 10, I didn’t know about these things. Maybe I’m upset because I realize that, by the time I have kids who are 10, keeping them from such exposures will be next to impossible. Or maybe it is simply because I realize that there is plenty of reason my friend seems a lot older than 10.