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The Debate: The Internet and Kids

Welcome to the Friday Debate. Each week, I'll bring up a controversial topic for everyone to bat around. Ideally, we'll all learn something from each other. The ground rules are simple: Respect each other's opinions, but don't expect that everyone will share your view -- that would be SO boring!

A friend of mine recently bought a rather large, new HDTV screen that wirelessly connects to the family computer. When the kids use the computer, the entire household can see what they are doing, she told me.

Meanwhile, a co-worker with four children tells me that his kids have ultimate computer freedom. The machines are in the teens' and pre-teens' bedrooms with firewalls and spam blockers, but no other protections.

In light of a University of New Hampshire study published this week that reports that 42 percent of surveyed Internet users ages 10 to 17 had seen online pornography in the past 12 months (much of it unsolicited and unwanted) what's a parent to do? The report assesses current standards in Internet prevention messages and concludes, "The content and focus of most Internet safety and prevention messages correctly target meeting people online. However concerns about sharing personal information seem to be less warranted than a focus on extinguishing harassing behaviors."

And USAToday at the end of January suggested that parents need to start talking to their kids as early as age 6 about what they might see online.

Given that my own boys haven't yet ventured beyond Sesame Street and Jigzone, I haven't had to face this issue yet. So, how do you tackle computer use and your children? Are they free to explore the Internet on their own terms? Do you control what they can see? Have you found a middle ground?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 9, 2007; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  The Debate
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Comments


Filters, firewalls, net nanny and the computer is in a common room facing outward. They know that at any time, a parent can walk by.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 7:15 AM | Report abuse

I completely agree with the first poster. When my kids reached the age where they could use the computer (and, therefore, the Internet) without help from mom and dad, the computer quickly migrated from my office to the family room, with a direct line of sight from the kitchen. Plus net nanny.

Posted by: Second, d'oh! | February 9, 2007 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Our computer is in a kitchen nook where we can moniter everything.

As for talking to your kids, my daughter's Brownie troop took a field trip to the school computer lab and learned all about on-line solicitation and good computer behavior. They also went to our local Police Station and the Officer that took us on the tour talked about people on-line that might tell them they are friends and want to meet them. It really made an impact on our daughter - we've already discussed everything with her, but getting it reinforced was great.

Posted by: cmac | February 9, 2007 7:50 AM | Report abuse

We are, thankfully, years from having to worry about this, but we've already agreed that our daughter won't have a computer in her bedroom -- the computer will remain in our family room, where we can at least keep an eye on what she's doing.

There's a part of me that's horrified by the idea of reading my child's emails or text messages, or putting spyware on the computer. When I was a kid, I absolutely hated having no right to privacy, and I'd rather trust my kid. But the dangers of the web for kids are pretty serious, so I'm guessing I'll have to accept limiting my daughter's privacy perhaps more than I'd like to.

Posted by: NewSAHM | February 9, 2007 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Agree with he crowd on this one. Parental ignorance when it comes to computers can border on child neglect. It would be like having a gun laying around and hoping that the child is responsible enough not to load it and play with it! It's not just the porn and possible solicitation, the internet is filled with hate-mongering souls just waiting to recruit the innocent minded. Filters, firewalls and net nanny can only do so much. If parents aren't going to take the time to monitor what their children do on line, then they shouldn't have the computer in the home!

I love computers, I have three of them in my home (of two adults and one 9 yr old son) and I am always aware of what my son is doing, what sites he is going to and what he has printed. The internet can be a wonderful tool for education and entertainment but it can also be a dark, dangerous place for those who don't know what they are doing or who don't understand the dangers (revealing personal info, clicking on the "shoot the duck, win a prize"). Children must be given the appropriate training and that includes monitoring.

Posted by: Circle Pines | February 9, 2007 8:28 AM | Report abuse

The instincts and decisions of the other posters are right on target. The National Academy of Sciences sponsored a two-year long study that resulted in a 400-page report titled Youth, Pornography, and the Internet. The study committee was headed by former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh. It concluded that education, parental involvement, and the use of filtering tools are, combined, the most effective way to protect kids online.

Posted by: John | February 9, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I seem to be going along with the crowd on this one. Each high-schooler has his/her own laptop (it's the only way I can get time on the family computer!) I am the administrator on all computers; they don't know the administrator password. I monitor the wireless network. I make it clear to them that I can check on everything on their computers, IF I want to. I almost never do, unless there's a problem that I need to fix. (Which, thanks to Microsoft, happens quite a lot. Yarrgggh!)

The computers are only to be used in common areas of the house, not their rooms unless they have explicit permission (e.g., watching a DVD with a friend over).

I keep the household firewall, laptop firewalls, anti-spam, anti-spyware and anti-virus up to date. I don't bother with net nanny or anything like that because in my experience they don't really work - they miss too much, they block too much legitimate stuff, and they're too easy to bypass.

We had long talks before each child was allowed computer access about what is and is not acceptable behavior, and when they should consult parents about something they see. We've discussed things they should and should not put in their blogs and other online websites. I demonstrate to all of them things that they should be on-guard for; e.g., I went through Xanga (a blog-site), and showed the oldest how easy it was for me to identify one of her friends by name, address, IM screen-name, etc. even though she thought it was private.

Mostly I trust them, but the consequences for violating the rules are harsh - loss of computer for an increasing lengths of time for each successive violation.

When they were younger and using the family computer, it was somewhat easier to control them, but the basic rules were the same.

Here are a few basic rules:

1 - never, ever use Internet Explorer. Get Firefox or Opera (or use a Mac). IE, even IE7, is full of exploitable holes and it's also the biggest target. It's broken; forget it.

2 - check to see which neighbors are running wireless networks that are open. You can control what goes through your internet access point. If your computer has wireless built in, it can be connecting automatically to a neighbor's wireless access point (modern ones have ranges of up to 500 or even 1000 feet) and you don't have control over that

3 - secure your own wireless network, if you have one

4 - keep your anti-spyware/anti-spam/anti-virus up to date.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Ok I agree, but I think the study was a bit flawed. What kid 16-17 does NOT want to see some of the things on the internet... riiiiight. SURE it was unsolicited...

Posted by: Chris | February 9, 2007 8:52 AM | Report abuse

We have only one child old enough to be concerned about in this regaurd and our practice seems to be in keeping with everyone else. The kids computer is in our children's study (there isn't room anywhere else) but must be used with the door open. She is only 8 and does not have her own IM or email accounts yet but we have talked to her about giving out any information on-line and have frequent discussions about safety because I feel like it won't be long before she is asking for those things. I do allow her to send and recieve emails through my account with her friends and relatives that are far away and that has been good enough for her so far. I agree that NetNanny and similar programs do not seem to be that effective. But the previous poster had some great suggestions.

Posted by: momof5 | February 9, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

momof5 wrote "She is only 8 and does not have her own IM or email accounts yet "

Are you sure?

Posted by: A bit cynical | February 9, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

We have one computer that's connected to the internet, and one computer that's not. On the computer that is connected to the internet we have a firewall, anti-virus software, etc. Both kids (13 and 14) use Firefox, rather than IE. Both kids have XP limited accounts, rather than administrative accounts. This whole setup reduces the chances of them inadvertently downloading a virus or spyware. My daughter has a myspace page which she loves to work with. She keeps the page private, although she has about 200 "friends" that can view the page. I've checked my daughter's myspace page. She knows enough to not even reveal that she's from this area. Both kids have been told not to give away any personal information to strangers, and I believe they have absorbed that lesson.

As for pornography, I don't block my kids from viewing it. When they had AOL accounts, I was able to see where they had been, and discovered that they had not been to any pornographic sites. At their ages, I'm sure they are curious, just as I was at their age. When I was their age I was able to check out Playboy, read salacious novels, and view pornographic pictures in Times Square. Most of my friends did the same. Somehow we turned out alright. It's not a big deal, and people make too much of an issue out of it.

Posted by: Alan | February 9, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it's possible to protect your children from pornography anymore. Maybe in your own house, but your kids if well socialized, have friends, and it's tough to configure your child's frends' computers, or hide their parents porn stash. I'm not saying that reasonable steps should be given up on, but I think complete prevention is near impossible, and it's up to the parents to teach their kids how to deal with it.

Protection from predators is a different class entirely.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 9, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I think parents should handle the internet in a similar manner they handle any childs interactions with the world outside the house because that is where the child is playing when on the internet. I think this means that the parental role and controls change as the child grows. Young children who would not be allowed to play outside beyond a caregivers line of site should not be allowed on the internet out of sight. Preteens or teens who would be allowed more freedom should be good freedome, but I think this goes along with more communication. And any time a child shows they can't be trusted because a parent discovers they didn't follow the rules or lied there should be consequences that are likely to change the childs behavior next time.

Posted by: toddlermom | February 9, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

One key is to have the computer in a well-traveled part of the house so you can see what your kids are doing from an early age.

I also am a fan of telling them (in age appropriate language) that there are some "bad people" on the Internet who pretend to be kids, are interested in tricking kids, and separately, that some Internet sites just want your money.

It's not just your home you have to worry about, it's when they go to friends' houses too. So it's a good idea to give them language to shut down inappropriate online activities on playdates, etc. I tell my kids to say "This is boring" or "Yuck! I don't like this" and to leave the room.

The only mishap so far is when a friend of my 10-year-old took some kids to a spanking site. It's was some kind of deviant British thing but they just thought it was funny. We parents, of course, were all mortified.

Posted by: Leslie | February 9, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

The Internet was entering its heyday when I was 14 or so, and I was allowed to have a page (on my parents server) and have my own IM account and whatnot. I was even sllowed to use the Internet with the door shut -- however, I did share the computer with my father and had no way of knowing when he would or wouldn't go take a look at my history or cache. Also because we had dialup, I was only allowed on the internet for an hour at a time, and then I had to wait at least one more hour before I hopped back on. I also got numerous periodic lectures on "you're not giving out info, are you?" The most anyone ever knew of me online was my first name, my favorite color, and how old I was, which in hindsight was probably more than I should have told them but they never knew where I lived or any sort of identifier (like what school I went to, any of my friends/relatives names), etc. I didn't have a problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Our house rules seem to work:

a. we reviewed computer usage beginning at age 5 or so, including talks on who might be out there, non-reality, etc. Very frank talks came in with age.
b. All computers, including mine, are in one common room.
c. The impact of viruses was taught by example. One downloaded something with a virus and it slowed down that machine resulting in severe lag. The ultimate in horror as far as he was concerned. Neither has downloaded a virus, turned down the firewall, etc. since. And yes, I periodically check.

And I realize they seen porn, but jeez, one is 16. I accept that as being rather normal. However, I have spoken with them about the graphicness and how that isn't really normal...how, it is 'marketing' of sorts and to not be sucked into it. (bad pun).

Posted by: dotted | February 9, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

The first time I remember seeing real pornography was a picture of a stripper / Go-Go Dancer with tassles on the side of a truck in Washington, DC. It had to have been around 1972-73 and I was probably 5 years old. I remember a complex plan like sneaking into the room of a friend's brother, who was off in the Marines, and going right for the nightstand where I found some 1975 issue of Swank, rolling it up and hiding it in my sock while he talked to his mom and then getting it to the treehouse unnoticed. I think second grade, maybe third grade. That is our history.

Posted by: Bethesdan | February 9, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I too was on the bleeding edge of the Internet revolution in my teen years - I remember vividly being 14, having an IRC chat client (my parents didn't have a clue what that even was) and getting into all sorts of mildly inappropriate conversations with people much older than I was. It happens. I wasn't scarred for life by seeing the occasional naked picture out there, either. I'd much rather DD see sex (you know, that stuff that feels good, does no harm, is age appropriate and in the right context can bring new life and love into the world) than some exploding cars and violence.

DD had some heavy-duty sex ed through the church (Unitarians have a program called OWL that would make most adults squirm, but the kids just assimilate it and end up with very healthy attidutudes about it all). She's had the big 'don't give out info' speech. The computer is in the living room, fifteen feet from the parent watching TV in there, and the screen faces the same way as the TV (easier for us to keep an eye out - and DD doesn't know just how sharp mom's eyes are!). Basic safety (virus scan, firewall, spyware scan, and a daughter on a non-administrator account) keeps it all working correctly. It's not THAT big a deal in our lives. I'm much more worried about her going to the mall.

Posted by: Rebecca in AR | February 9, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

DD has been using Webkins since the holidays, and we have been using that experience as a teaching moment for web-ettiquette (sp?). We have refrained from a wireless network, DS has a unnetworked iMac on his desk, and only the kitchen amchine is online. As demand goes up I know we will have to get a wireless network going (probably Mac based but I'd love to use my work laptop on it too) and I will need advice on how to do it safely.

Toto, this isnt Kansas anymore.

Posted by: Fo3 | February 9, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

There is such a huge difference between playboy and some of the stuff online. I really think more vigilance than oh, they're just kids is needed.
First, our kids are too young yet, but our oldest has his own computer to play games. Has no idea how to use the web or anything else.
Second, we use macs, a little more secure. Now the computers are in the office, and it is okay, but we will eventually move it to the kitchen. With a mom and dad who are pretty savvy(dad set up a web server in the house, runs some web pages, etc), I think our kids will know we will be watching.

I agree that I do not want to be snooping, but there is real danger out there and definitely things that children (and adults) should not be accessing. I guess we'll see when we get there.

Posted by: atlmom | February 9, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Fo3, you can most certainly use a windows machine on a mac network. Do it all the time. Macs are the best!

And sorry for the multiple posts, something,s weird over here.

Posted by: atlmom | February 9, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm with alan at 9:20am

I have middle and high school age kids. Our computer is in a common area, but we're not always home and not always in the room where the computer is.

Our kids were not allowed to use the computer until 4th grade, so that avoids lots of issues.

Once they started, the rules:

- ONLY use Firefox.
- Don't give out real information.
- Be aware that on IM and blogs people aren't always who they seem to be.

As for porn, I'm not concerned. I found last year that my daughter had been checking porn sites and decided not to make an issue of it. Of course, we have talked very openly from the earliest years about sex, sexuality, gender, etc.

And I think that's the key. You have to talk to your kids about this stuff (sex, porn) in a realistic way from the time they are 5, or possibly younger.

The paranoia of some parents results, in my experience, in kids who feel they have to be dishonest. And believe me, kids can find ways to see and do what they want on the internet regardless of what parents think. And the younger it starts, the better they'll get at hiding things from you.

Posted by: a dad | February 9, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I make my living thru investments I access and control thru the internet, I have never in over 15 years of use encountered unsolicited porn. or any porn for that matter so Iam dufubious about this stuff popping up on my kids computers. I have taught my twin 5 year old daughters to use their computers from the age of three, they mainly spend 1 hour a day + on an outsourced tudoring site I pay for, they read proficiently, math is thru multiplication and their interests are varied. They also spend time on PBS and a lot of time just being kids, in the mud, pool and other fun places.

Posted by: mcewen, cottonwood, usa | February 9, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

We have three boys, 11-9-7, three desktops, and two laptops. We issued an ultimatum, when we set them up for the boys 2.5/3 yrs ago, that there is no downloading, no email/IM, no surrendering any personal information whatsoever. We run CyberSitter, a filter program that blocks anything you want.

Proximity is important as well. No PCs in their rooms, but in the kitchen, and in the family room/basement.

My wife and I use the laptops primarily (hers is from work), so we do have a secured wireless network, but the boys' PCs are wired into a 4 port wireless router.

We all remember how curious we were when WE were younger- we had nothing compared to what is available to these kids today- that's both fantastic, and also cause for a little precaution.

Posted by: mikemLBI | February 9, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Parents with young kids should check out the www.kids.us portal page. Kids.us is an Internet namespace using the .US domain name system that's guaranteed to be safe for children.

The company running the .US domain name is required by law to review all web content using kids.us domains, including ongoing automated reviews to ensure all content remains acceptable. There aren't very many sites at the moment, but some of them are quite good.

One of the requirements in the kids.us space prohibits hyperlinks to anything other than another kids.us website, so by adjusting browser settings, parents can restrict access to any other sites and keep their kids safe in the network of kids.us sites.

I wish there were more active websites, but there are some top-notch sites like:

www.nickelodeon.kids.us
www.smithsonian.kids.us
www.disney.kids.us
www.abckids.kids.us

I hope this helps!

Posted by: Brian in MD | February 9, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

"As for porn, I'm not concerned. I found last year that my daughter had been checking porn sites and decided not to make an issue of it. Of course, we have talked very openly from the earliest years about sex, sexuality, gender, etc."

I just cant get there. I know kids "grow up faster" these days, but I cannot concieve of introducing sex/porn or allowing the internet to do same at "the earliest years."

Can't our kids get to be kids until they are 10?! What is earliest?

I consider the vast majority of pop culture to be offensive, violent and repugnant. For example, did anybody see the 40yr Old Virgin? The movie had its funny moments and tried to be redeeming by the end, but much of it was crass, rude, and base.

What laughs came from discussing sex with a horse in the openning minutes? Objectification of women and stereotyping of both men and women were rampant and promote those stereotypes. Wasnt close to "Risky Business" or "16 Candles" or other reasonable coming of age fair. Teens WILL be watching this X-rated garbage.

If my kids come to me and ask, I go with honest answers. But I will look to shelter them from the absolutley repugnant nature of today's amoral media. I didnt say not expose to elements of this amoral media cancer.

Note I said, just that I would attempt to "shelter" ie protect, prepare, console explain.

IN SHORT, Unimpeded access to the vagaries of the internet is a cop out in terms of parental responsibility.

My kid aint goin over to your house bub.

Posted by: Fo3 | February 9, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you Fo3. They should be able to remain innocent for a while. 10 doesn't seem unreasonable.

I have an 8 yr old nephew and while he plays some games online, he certainly doesn't have email or IM. No reason for it. These are the same kids who don't get to watch commercials during most family friendly hours at night because they are THAT bad.

Posted by: Lou | February 9, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Fortunately, my kids are young and we have several years until this becomes an issue.

I am concerned about them viewing pornography as teenagers. An interest is the human physical form is perfectly natural and healthy. It wouldn't bother me to find my son viewing Playboy-level nudies.

However, much of the material out there is very deviant, and I don't think that a teenager can fully comprehend that it is not normal or real. Could really interfere with normal emotional and sexual development in actual human relationships.

Posted by: Preschool Dad | February 9, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Well, since everyone seems to be so happily agreeing, I'm going to post against everything here. I believe children (particularly teens) will do what they want to (and most are more techno-savvy enough to do it). I think education is the best method -- teaching right/wrong, morals, etc. But watching and spying and controlling them is wrong. It only makes what's "unavailable" more enticing. When you tell a teen (or a child) "don't do that," the first thing in their head is "how can i do that?" And, if most parents would admit it, they had the same thoughts when THEY were teenagers too. So, stop being hypocritical and spying on your kids, and teach them properly. THEN you can trust them on their own.

Posted by: Against the Crowd | February 9, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

A careful kid can erase a browser's history listings, etc. to cover his tracks from parental oversight. Are any of you using additional monitoring software to overcome those steps?

Posted by: Tom T. | February 9, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

As in all things the internet possesses good and bad... My family life was personally impacted by the internet; the addiction to internet; the addiction to pornography; the use of myspace and inappropriate content. The ability to reach out to inappropriate complete strangers. And this wasn't just by the KIDS in the family. the internet can make you reach out and do things your good character would not normally let you do; but the accessbility just zaps one in on a weak moment and lives can be forever impacted.

The internet/computer can destroy lives with out proper monitoring.

Take control - of EVERYONE in the household - and their access on the computer. Sometimes the temptation is too much for even the best of souls.

Posted by: C.W. | February 9, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Fo3, either you didn't read what I wrote or you didn't understand it.

Thinking that blocking internet usage is the solution, that is the parental responsibility copout. Read what I wrote. And read what Against the Crowd wrote.

And btw if you are not talking to your youngsters about sex -- and of course, talking about it at 5 is very different than how you talk about it at 12 -- then you really are copping out on your parental responsibilities.

Posted by: a dad | February 9, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

A careful kid can erase a browser's history listings, etc. to cover his tracks from parental oversight. Are any of you using additional monitoring software to overcome those steps?
________________

No, but I showed my kids that I could. I downloaded and installed on their machine a keystroke logger and showed them what it did. Then I told them that I wouldn't use that unless I had a reason to believe they were doing something they shouldn't.

For example, it's very hard to delete an individual item from a browser history without modifying something else; it's much easier to delete the whole history. If I found the entire history deleted they'd better have a good reason.

So far, I haven't had a problem.

(Okay, I've been doing this kind of thing since 1981; I still do it for a living so I know way more about the computer than do my teenagers. That probably helps me more than most parents; but still, it's important to know how this thing your kids are useing works.)

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I think the best combination for middle school age and up is supervision and auditing.

(1) Supervision. As many others have suggested, keeping the computer(s) in a place where Mom and Dad can easily keep an eye on what's going on.

(2) Auditing. Installing robust software that tracks internet sites visited - don't rely on the browser history which can be easily cleared. Tell the kids you will be doing periodic spot-checks to make sure only appropriate sites are being visited.

Netnanny and similar programs are a bad idea. They are both over-inclusive (blocking sites that shouldn't be blocked) and under-inclusive (letting through harmful material). You don't want your child to not be able to access a site on World War 2 because one of the monitoring programs mistakes it for a Neo-Nazi site.

In any case, all of the programs like Netnanny (to the extent they work) reflect the biases and worldviews of the developers as to what is appropriate and what is not. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but I think these decisions should be made by a parent and not a software company.

Posted by: Bill M. | February 9, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

DD had some heavy-duty sex ed through the church (Unitarians have a program called OWL that would make most adults squirm, but the kids just assimilate it and end up with very healthy attidutudes about it all).

____________

Hey, Catholics now get a sex ed program during religious education that would surprise most people. My wife teaches CCD and some of the stuff initially made her uncomfortable teaching it. But it does seem to help the kids.

The relevance of that is that, if your spyware protection etc is not up to date, you can get some pretty nasty programs installed on your computer that cycle endlessly through pages advertising porn websites. The kids seem to understand that while sex is natural and healthy, this stuff is somewhat different.

(This, btw, is essentially what happened in the case of the substitute teacher in Connecticut who got convicted of provide porn to kids when an unprotected computer in the classroom cycled through a loop of porn ads. Spyware protection out of date; somebody hit a website and downloaded a script; and away it goes. One hopes the appeals judges, unlike the trial judge, are competent.)

Posted by: Anonymous | February 9, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

A very interesting thing has happened to several of my friends regarding their children's use of the web. They have been directed to their own kid's MySpace site and found out things that shocked and amazed them. This is not particularly relevant to younger children, but certainly most teenagers have a MySpace site. One story that really taught a lesson was of a friend's child who had been accepted into college, but that college checked out the MySpace site in which the child alluding to participating in illegal behavior, and the acceptance was revoked. I don't advocate spying on your children, but check out their MySpace site and you can find out a lot about them that you probably didn't know.

Posted by: Former NoVA Mom | February 9, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Why do so many parents consider porn to be a bad thing? I can understand wanting to talk about the difference between 'fantasy' and 'reality'- but that's not so hard or a big deal.

I just worry that parents will try the extremes rather than focus on the goal- raising a mature, stable, independent adult.

You can't do that if you NEVER let them have privacy, if you NEVER let them roam on their own, if you NEVER trust them.

You have to teach them the tools that they will need in life- you can't hide them away or present them in an unrealistic structure and then expect them to handle it just fine on their own.

And again, what exactly does someone need to be protected from with porn?

Posted by: Liz D | February 9, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

To Former NoVA Mom:

The Post wrote about both private schools and colleges looking at teens' MySpace pages about a year ago. Here's a link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/16/AR2006011601489.html

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | February 9, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Liz D - you are kidding me right? A previous poster just stated how it has impacted her family, not just her children. So an immature 16 year old can easily be swept away into cyber reality without realizing what is happening.

Posted by: Lou | February 9, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"As for porn, I'm not concerned. I found last year that my daughter had been checking porn sites and decided not to make an issue of it. Of course, we have talked very openly from the earliest years about sex, sexuality, gender, etc."

We arent talking about only soft core stuff here. The universe of porn certain includes deviant, hard-core material which could be mistinterpreted as acceptable evryday normal adult play. The objectification of the sex act as amusement alone instead of involving a caring relationship degrades the act and its potential impact on propogating life. Sex is not simply a sport without any consequences. Treating as such is wrong.

The pop-ups for many of these porn sites are repulsive - and dont portray simply the beauty of the natural love act or the human form by any means. Perpetuating the idea that "porn is ok" reinforces damaging sexist stereotypes - do you disagree? Why?

"The paranoia of some parents results, in my experience, in kids who feel they have to be dishonest. And believe me, kids can find ways to see and do what they want on the internet regardless of what parents think. And the younger it starts, the better they'll get at hiding things from you."

Posted by: a dad | February 9, 2007 11:57 AM

I did read your post. I do not agree with you. As a parent I will set boundaries to be clear in what I consider appropriate behavior. If my kids transgress that they will lnow that they have broken rules in our house. The idea that parent's shouldnt parent because kids will just learn to lie and do whatever they feel anyway is an abrogation of parental resposibility IMHO. Lets not set speeding limits, people will come out ok anyway. I would hope for the sake of your child's friends (and their parents) that you would not facilitate other kids watching porn at your house.

Same as serving kids alcohol in your house...
Same as having unrestricted firearms in your house...
Same as having elective cosmetic surgery for teens...
Same as verbally abusing child/spouse...
Same as corporal punishment...

Where is the line between right and wrong? Or is everthing ok as long as you explain it properly?

flame away... please dont read my post as if I am angry upset over-protective etc. I just think that the incredibly openness of the internet deserves more than normal vigilance.

Posted by: Fo3 | February 9, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

spell checked - sorry

"As for porn, I'm not concerned. I found last year that my daughter had been checking porn sites and decided not to make an issue of it. Of course, we have talked very openly from the earliest years about sex, sexuality, gender, etc."
We aren't talking about only soft core stuff here. The universe of porn certain includes deviant, hard-core material which could be misinterpreted as acceptable everyday normal adult play. The objectification of the sex act as amusement alone instead of involving a caring relationship degrades the act and its potential impact on propagating life. Sex is not simply a sport without any consequences. Treating as such is wrong.
The pop-ups for many of these porn sites are repulsive - and don't portray simply the beauty of the natural love act or the human form by any means. Perpetuating the idea that "porn is ok" reinforces damaging sexist stereotypes - do you disagree? Why?
"The paranoia of some parents results, in my experience, in kids who feel they have to be dishonest. And believe me, kids can find ways to see and do what they want on the internet regardless of what parents think. And the younger it starts, the better they'll get at hiding things from you."
Posted by: a dad | February 9, 2007 11:57 AM
I did read your post. I do not agree with you. As a parent I will set boundaries to be clear in what I consider appropriate behavior. If my kids transgress that they will know that they have broken rules in our house. The idea that parent's shouldn't parent because kids will just learn to lie and do whatever they feel anyway is an abrogation of parental responsibility IMHO. Lets not set speeding limits, people will come out ok anyway. I would hope for the sake of your child's friends (and their parents) that you would not facilitate other kids watching porn at your house.
Same as serving kids alcohol in your house...
Same as having unrestricted firearms in your house...
Same as having elective cosmetic surgery for teens...
Same as verbally abusing child/spouse...
Same as corporal punishment...
Where is the line between right and wrong? Or is everything ok as long as you explain it properly?
Flame away... but please don't read my post as if I am angry upset over-protective etc. I just think that the incredible openness of the internet deserves more than normal vigilance.

Posted by: Fo3 | February 9, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

But you can't say "porn" is the problem- not any more than drinking alcohol is the problem. The problem is the initial person and how they deal with the situation.

Porn wouldn't be so popular and proliferate if people- every day people you work with, see in restaurants, say good morning to, didn't want it and enjoy it.

I'm not suggesting we give a 6 year old a porn mag and tell them to enjoy it. That's as bad as giving them a christian bible and telling them it's the only thing they need to read.

But porn itself is nothing bad or wrong, it's something a lot of people really enjoy, and needs to be accepted and dealt with in that light.

Posted by: Liz D | February 9, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

But porn itself is nothing bad or wrong, it's something a lot of people really enjoy, and needs to be accepted and dealt with in that light.

Posted by: Liz D | February 9, 2007 04:03 PM

But would you agree that some kinds of porn IS bad and wrong? or that some is not age appropriate for teens? tweens? kindergardeners?

Alcohol is very regulated. There is a long history of an age restriction on its use. Grain alcohol, moonshine etc are prohibited and most agree that the level of regulation/taxation is proper. I happen to think that the 21 drinking age is poor legislation and removes the ability for parents to teach responsible drinking and leaves underage kids with great comfort in breaking the law - because "everybody does it."

There is no such regulation on internet porn. The responsibility lies with us as parents to be the gatekeeper in terms of restricting exposure to this potentially addictive, destructive, immoral, degrading, unheathly (etc etc) media.

Would you at least agree that ALL porn is not safe/harmless?

Posted by: Fo3 | February 9, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"_______" itself is nothing bad or wrong, it's something a lot of people really enjoy, and needs to be accepted and dealt with in that light.

Gambling
A gun/fireworks/explosives
A fast car/motorcycle
Tobacco
Cocaine/LSD/Pot
Incest
Unsupervised private time for my child with his/her pastor at church/temple


Shall I go on?

Posted by: me again | February 9, 2007 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Fo3

I would agree that not all porn should be thrust at all children. I agree that that porn made from people who do not freely choose to be involved in it is wrong.

I agree that porn, like all things in life, is something to be learned about over time, openly discussed, and understood within context.

Posted by: Liz D | February 9, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I think I read most of the comments. I keep reading about the importance of keeping the computers in an open area. But I think that is not always enough. I think kids should know that parents can and will check history on a regular basis. If they go to someplace innapropriate they better tell the parent about it before they find out by checking the history. If they erase the history, that will look suspicious too. If they know they MIGHT be being watched that should have a moderating effect on their viewing habits.

Posted by: robert | February 9, 2007 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Well, there are some great sites on the web for kids, such as www.storynory.com, which has classic stories all beautifully read, and all absolutely free.

Posted by: Matthew | February 12, 2007 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Kids in elementary school don't need to be on the computer. At all. There is nothing out there they can't learn more effectively in the real world.

Posted by: Robert in Austin | February 12, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Robert in Austin exemplifies the "if it was good enough for me, it's good enough for everybody" mentality that is so common among the culturally illiterate. Computers are as integral a part of learning in modern schools as libraries, and to somehow think that our children should not be exposed to the single most widely used research tool until they are out of elementary school is a bizarre thought at best. Just to be clear, Robert, the "real world" includes computers... so I supposed I actually agree with you that kids, and other young barnyard animals, in elementary schools should fully explore the "real world" as they learn. Excellent post.

Posted by: Tom | February 12, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Tom, Computers are not an integral part of every modern school. Do your homework.
Yes, computers are common in modern life. Cell phones are common too, and a great communication tool, but not the best way for children to communicate. Tom explifies the "if it's good for adults then it's okay for kids" mentality so common among those ignorant about childhood development and the makers of Bratz dolls.

Glad you liked my post.

Posted by: Robert in Austin | February 12, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

If you think that computers or cellphones are not an integral part of everything we do, I challenge you to manage a team without either. Or wait, maybe you don't need them flipping burgers. I thought PDAs were optional until I got a promotion, now I realize how unproductive I was on weekends without one. Sure, there are some entry-level jobs that don't require that kind of productivity and if you're satisfied with that, so be it, but why do I think you'll be squawking when houses in the area cost $1.5 million and you're still making $75k a year.

Posted by: Bethesdan | February 13, 2007 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Bethesdan, No I would not want to try and manage my team without a computer. But I thought we were talking about children, not adults. The question is not "Are computer useful for adults?" Clearly, they are. The question is "Are computers are useful for children, and if so, under what guidelines?" I still maintain that computer usage for an elementary aged child is not particularly beneficial to their development. There is room for disagreement.

Posted by: Robert in Austin | February 14, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The inquiry should be focused on parents addicted to the Net. I originally used a computer for calculations then for communication. Once accessed to the Net, I became a news/info junky big time. Parents worry about protecting their kids from bad guys on the Net. I worry about entire families so addicted to the Net that they spend little of their precious time doing fun things with their kids. Porn & predators have a real hard time getting to kids' hearts & minds when their parents have them instead. ;-)

Posted by: MomsHugs | February 20, 2007 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Well many things to say. Firstly to be quite honest a lot of the post (especially in the begining) to me sounding like parents braging about the great system they have while naively believing that it their kids dont get around it all the time. I won't disagree that there be some twisted stuff on the internet, and increasingly on TV and radio as well. But unless you have a plan to change any of that anytime soon I'd suggest preparing your kids for it.

It's like common sense with alcohol. I and many people I know drank through out high school, and to be honest did a few stupid things along the way. But when we went to college we watched in amazement as those freshmen who had never touched alcohol before drank far more irresponsibly then we ever would have high school, always a few drinking themselves straight to the emergency room or occasionally to death. To us it made no sense at first, then we remembered that they had no experience from when they were younger. When we drank in high school we were naturally compelled to be more cautious because we were worried about making too much noise and waking the parents, or having to go back home that night and pretend to be sober. The internet I feel is much the same.

Also I would agree with some others have said that in the modern world it is an important tool for kids to learn how to use. I had access to the internet since I was twelve, and my parents tried to regulate how it was used with many of the same tactics described here, in fact if you had asked this question then their response would probablly have been much the same. But their is always a way around, I would give details to illustrate the point but I feel that would be unfair to the coming generations. So with the parental barriers easily overcome, and as a curious youth going throw puberty, looking up porn was only natural, and like anyone else I found the good the bad and the just straight fked up. And as someone who didn't have many friends at the time internet chatting was also naturally enticing, which quite obviously lead me at times to talk with some rather sketchy people but nothing bad ever came of it. And while these activities might not seem useful directly, chatting online improved my typing speed (though maybe hurt my spelling), and finding ways to weed through all the countless mirrors of the same sites to find a few new free sample pics to feed my sexual curiosity is how I first learned how to search the internet effectively. Both highly valuable skills to me now as a college student.

So that might not be the model experience many want for their kids, and my view may be biased cuz I don't have kids of my own, but at the end of day I don't feel my life was impacted in a negative, and I feel better prepared to deal with the world we live in. And of course there are others who in the same position might have turned at worse. People's ability to manage their freedom is different, just as people's ability to cope and adapt under over-protection (such as the university student's without alcohol experience) is different, so I don't intend to make my experience the rule but neither is it the exception, because I know many others of my generation who grew up the same. Parents are pretty easily fooled when you think about it, there's just such a reluctance to think bad of one's own kid, especially in a society where we're always looking to blame someone else (and hopefully sue them) whenever anything bad happens. The key isn't to try to control what they do - because believe me you really can't, even those who say they know that but think they change/moderate it a bit, the amount to which is quite little if the kid has the will - but to teach them to be good people and to be capable of making good decisions. Putting up walls so they can find out how to climb them doesn't do that.

As for those who believe in their technological "solutions," there are ways and rather easy ones around filtering and monitoring software. Why bother erasing history, you can stop it from being recorded in the first place and then turn it back on when yur done. With the exception of a few most parents today honestly still know a lot less about computer then their kids do. And plus the odds are against you, the hacker is always a step ahead of the security. Because he just has to think of something you won't think about or notice, you have to think of everything he might think of doing...and then find a way to stop it.

Oh, and on a last be unrelated note, I'd personally be more worried about games than I would porn. I don't know anyone who's ever dropped out of school because of porn. Evercrack on the other hand... You'd be surprised how many will give up the real world for the matrix if it means they can be a level 28 black mage or have the most head shots on their server.

Posted by: College Student from Wheaton | February 21, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

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