The advances in personal communications in the last decade and a half have been not only extensive but also transformative. Where once your only choice to converse with someone not in the room with you was to call them on their fixed, land line phone, these days you can text, email or simply call them on their cell, making them accessible to you any time of the day or night, regardless of location.
This is progress - or is it? Whereas the hardware has given us new alternatives for communicating, human behavior has made little if any progress in refining the ways we treat each other. Our communications can be profound, sincere or uplifting, or they can be nonsensical, hateful or mean. Just like always.
And just how true that proposition can be is revealed in our cover story this week, "Beware of Cyberbullies" by Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz. The title of the article is an admonition to parents and others responsible for young people to be aware of the new ways their charges can be negatively affected by the burgeoning communicative modes and devices.
Compounding the situation is the reality that we relatively older folks are hard-pressed to keep up with the new cyber environment, the one the kids have grown up with and have integrated into their lives to an extent we might not have imagined just 15 years ago. People over a certain age, and it's not that old, tend to view the cyber world as ephemeral, not quite real. But to those below that age, it's part and parcel of the world around us.
So here's what's not new: bullying, adolescent crushes, trying to keep adults in the dark. And this means, of course, that parents, teachers, police and others need to pay attention to what the kids are doing - also not new. In order to do this, those aforementioned authorities need to be aware of the new behaviors. This is going to be a challenge.