Pope Francis 2013.jpg

Not by a long shot.

A British thinksite, The Conversation , offers a piece by Sonia Livingstone, social psychology prof at the London School of Economics, chiding Pope Francis I for warning kids about wasting time on futile things on the Internet:

So what’s it to be for youth and the internet? Time-wasting and futile? Or the first to benefit from the wonders of the digital age?

Well, neither necessarily, and matters are not helped when Livingstone tells us,

This debate has been raging since children first picked up comic books and went to Saturday morning cinema.

Of course. Media are tools. And there are lots of “futile things” on the Internet. Francis is quite right to warn young people not to be drawn into them.

Here’s just one example: Sometimes in recent years, young people have written to me—as a moderator at a blog site—asking me to delete intemperate posts from their adolescent pasts. They were looking for adult jobs and were concerned that employers have been known to search for such posts. I, of course, deleted the identified posts without even reading them. But there is no guarantee that everyone would …

Interestingly, the Holy Father’s concerns are shared, as it happens, by my household insurance company. They have just sent round a newsletter which includes an article offering some useful reflections for parents of teens: First, social media can help improve written communication skills. But written communication is more easily misunderstood than oral communication. And the most serious risk young people run today is sharing personal information.

Some young people may not realize that sharing sensitive details, such as their home address or daily routine, can put them at risk.

Actually, it can put everyone who lives in the same location at risk.

One suggestion offered is for parents to create a “contract” with children about online use. Including, never give out sensitive personal information.

I’d add this, from parenting experience: It should be agreed that if such a thing happened, and we immediately tell someone, any consequences we face will not be nearly so serious as those we would face if we concealed the matter—and either a disaster occurred or it was warded off by someone else—and we were found out later.

We all make mistakes, but we don’t all endanger others by refusal to admit and try to prevent harm caused by our mistakes.

Some statistics of interest:

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...