Fuse #8

Friday, April 06, 2007

Parental Permission

Author Jenny Han over at that thar Longstockings blog poses a very interesting question. Observe:

"There's been some talk over at Verla Kay about kids contacting authors directly through their websites. The consensus seems to be that kids should get parental permission before writing an author."

Really? Why? Seems an awfully unfortunate way to go about things. Scenario: Kid has parents that loathe and despise Captain Underpants, but the child is such a fan that he sneaks off a fan e-mail to Dav Pilkey in the vain hope that maybe his hero will write him back? Sounds like somebody's gotten all panicky here. Still, when it comes to kids, the Internet, and parents, people are far more inclined to go the overprotective route than the other way around. Too bad, though.



At 7:55 AM , Blogger Jane said...

Gee--it would make my life much easier if some parents stopped their kids from writing to me for help with their homework. As it is I get email from students in a panic because they are late on assignnments and when I don't give them answers (or answer instantly) call me "a farted up old lady." Really!

On the other hand, I love getting email from kids who really want to write to me and always answer.

Jane Yolen

At 8:30 AM , Anonymous Loree Burns said...

Here is another scenario to consider ...

A child from a school I recently visited went to my website and posted a comment on my blog. This is just fine by me ... he is a really sweet kid and he posted in response to my blog entry about his school. BUT, he included his first and last name in the post. The school and its location were both easily determined from my blog entry.

Now, I realizes the chances are slim that someone would happen to read my blog, happen to see his comment (I keep my comments a bit buried), and happen to live near this location, and also happen to be a person with bad intentions. But it could happen.

I deleted his Comment and reposted it under my own name with his last name deleted. And I wrote to his teacher, told her what I had done, and asked that she speak to the kids about internet safety and not giving out identifying information (first and last names, addresses, etc etc) online, which she did.

With three kids of my own, I go the overprotective route every time. While I would love for my website, email, and blog to be a convenient way for kids and I to communicate, it is important that it be SAFE for them, too. If part of being SAFE is keeping parents in the loop, then I am all for it.

The experience has got me thinking hard about what safety on the internet is, and what my responsibilities (as children's author and host of a website/blog targeted, in part, to my young readers) in maintaining that safety are.

Interesting conversation, as always, Betsy.

Loree Burns

At 11:08 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

I would think that blogs would be an entirely different matter. I mean, I can see the problems with a kid's name appearing on the Internet. That's no good. So how does e-mailing an author differ, or does it differ at all? Stuff to ponder.

At 11:39 AM , Blogger Matthew said...

I think the kids should have parental permission to be online, period. Once they're on, the horse has left the barn, as it were. I don't think we need to keep re-checking for permission.

On the other hand, cases like Loree Burns' actions just show good citizenship. We shouldn't have to check for permission once we're online, but that doesn't mean we should stop being concerned about people's safety.

At 7:29 PM , Blogger gail said...

When I do school visits, I tell the kids they're welcome to e-mail me, but that they should get permission from a parent or teacher (assuming they're e-mailing from school) first. I have no idea if the children who contact me have done this. I really believe parents have a right and an obligation to keep track of the adults their kids interact with.

After responding, I destroy all e-mails (and all but a few snail mails) that I receive from children (and most other people, for that matter). My website has a privacy policy at the bottom of the home page stating that I store no information on visitors. I think this suggestion came from a SCBWI publication I saw a few years ago. If not the SCBWI, some other publication dealing with children's writers.

At 1:44 PM , Blogger Gregory K. said...

There are actually laws dealing with minors online, their personal information, and the like and how a site owner can and cannot use/record/whatever said information. Blogs, in this sense, are no different than any other online thang.


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