Internet brings strangers to kids in the Bush

So I see from the paper that Barrow Cable TV is about to be purchased by GCI. That means that Barrow will be wired to the world at an even quicker rate than it already is.  Instead of listening to my Barrow friends complaining about slow dial up to the Internet and endless waits while downloading pictures of the latest cute things my animals did, they will have access to cable modem.  Now they won’t have an excuse to not comment on how wonderful my little flock looks.

When I first arrived in Barrow in 1972, they didn’t even have TV on a regular basis yet. It had been there for a while and then closed down. When the next incarnation of what was to become Barrow Cable TV opened a few months after I arrived, it consisted of six-week old tapes shown out of an old garage in Browerville. 

The rhythm of life was different in the Bush back then. The fact that we were watching the Olympics six weeks after they happened didn’t bother anyone. The fact that we already knew the results was not a problem. We were just happy to eventually be able to share the experience. And if those tapes didn’t make it for some reason, no big loss.  Life went on and we hardly noticed the absence.

Then the world sped up and the Bush sped up with it. In the mid 1970’s, public radio arrived with a bang in Bush Alaska.  Those first operations were shaky and amateurish to say the least, but they were live and they were local.  Within a few years there was instant access to news. And events such as the World Series didn’t have to wait for the tapes.  They could be heard live on the radio.

Then came cable TV and we were able to watch the news that happened the day it happened, even if the evening news showed up at 3 PM in Barrow because the networks were coming from Chicago and points east.  The Anchorage Daily News and the Anchorage Times started showing up in our local store on a daily basis. Public broadcasting continued to grow in importance and soon many stations had their own local news and weather reports.  To say nothing of their saturation coverage of local sporting events. 

Basketball, which has always reigned supreme in the Bush, was suddenly elevated to something just this side of a religious experience.  Listening to the local teams battle it out on any level from JV to varsity to state tournaments became a requirement of good citizenship.

Opening the Bush up to the world changed a lot of things.  Kids became more sophisticated. Wearing mom’s Sunday dress to the prom was no longer acceptable.  Girls wanted real prom dresses.  They wanted their dates to have a suit and a corsage for them, just like they saw on TV commercials.

And gang language showed up among our youth.  Suddenly we heard words and phrases straight from some really bad TV shows coming out of the mouths of our young men.  I sometimes wondered if they even knew the meaning of the language they were using.

I will never forget the sight of some local young men in Barrow chasing a young African American down the street after a party gone bad in which they were yelling, among other things, “We’ll get you, you honky.” As that young man told me later, he didn’t know whether to run or to laugh because he never ever imagined anyone calling him a honky.

Now Barrow will have not only over 50 channels of TV – which means possibly four hours of something worth watching per week – but also cable modem access to the Internet and all the good and bad things it brings into your home.  I hope for the sake of their children that Barrow parents prepare themselves for what this can mean and take any precautions needed to make sure that their teens especially are watching channels and using sites acceptable to their age and maturity.

Bringing this kind of access into your home is like inviting a whole group of strangers to live with you. Some might be nice but some might lead your children down paths best not taken.  Make sure you know who these strangers are that your children are visiting.  Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.