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A Parent's Role as Net Cop?

Last night I received a phone call that reminded me of a story I had planned to write a few months back but got sidetracked from finishing, involving a series of bomb threats one individual kept making at several schools up north. The local authorities got involved, and after the fourth bomb threat within a few weeks, the county sheriff held a town meeting where he urged the parents to check the logs of the online chat conversations of their children to see if any of them had discussed planning the bomb threats

According to several people I interviewed at the time who attended that meeting, few of the parents knew the first thing about what their kids were doing online, much less how to check up on any of it. Many felt strongly that peeking at their children's browsing and chatting records would be a flagrant violation of their child's right to privacy.

Back when I was reporting this story, I asked a few security experts what they thought, and got similarly diverse views. Privacy expert Richard M. Smith said parents should supervise their children's online activities: "Parents don't realize how easy it is for the kids to wind up in the wrong place online."

Still, Smith said, parents should ease up on the monitoring when kids get older (though he declined to say what age that should be). His kids have all left the nest now, but when his daughters were preteens, the computer stayed in a very visible area of the home. In their later teen years, Smith said he acquiesced to one daughter's request for a computer in her room.

"Seems like the older kids deserve their own space," he said. "Somehow you trust girls more than you do boys in this area."

Marcus Sachs, director of the SANS Internet Storm Center and a deputy director at SRI International, said in his home his 17- and 18-year-old daughters were told long ago that as long as they live under his roof they have zero expectation of privacy online.

"There is absolutely no such thing as privacy for kids online," Sachs said.

Now, I don't have any kids yet, so maybe my personal views on this subject will change when I do. But it seems to me that while the Internet is a vast ocean of information -- much of it fascinating, beautiful, entertaining and informative -- there appears to be far more digital crud out there that hardly waits for you to find it.

In my opinion, leaving a teenager alone in his or her bedroom with a computer for hours on end is a recipe for trouble. Giving a preteen unsupervised access to the Internet over the long term strikes me as flirting with disaster -- particularly if your child trusts the wrong person with his or her personal information.

It's probably worth mentioning here the kid we wrote about last week who admitted hacking Paris Hilton's cell phone and data broker LexisNexis. Among his first public stunts were bomb threats, and he clearly had little or no trouble evading parental supervision.

Incidentally, security expert Winn Schwartau has written a very thoughtful book on this very subject, entitled "Internet and Computer Ethics for Kids (and Parents & Teachers Who Haven't Got a Clue)."

What do you think, readers? Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment in the section below, or drop me an e-mail. If you do express your views in an e-mail, please let me know whether it is okay to publish your comments, if not also your name.

By Brian Krebs  |  September 21, 2005; 11:47 AM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker  
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Comments

I couldn't agree more with the statement by Sachs regarding children's 'privacy' versus protection. Too many parents want to be their children's friend instead of their guardian. Children need supervision to protect them from the big mistakes, while being given enough freedom to be able to make the small mistakes and learn from them. By this method they can be protected from the big stuff while still learning proper judgement and responsibility. It is unfortunate that not enough parents are technically savy enough or interested in keeping watch over their children's Internet activity. The best analogy I have heard is that the Internet is like a doorway in your house that leads to the heart of a major city. It can give you access to the beautiful things the city has to offer, but also to many dark alleys and seedy characters waiting for someone to come by. What loving parent would let their child or even young teenager go off alone in such a situation?

Posted by: Father of Four | September 21, 2005 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Your point is well taken and parents are clueless (including me at one time). Check out myspace.com, most parents probably do not know it exists, and there are many other popular websites. To adults, the internet is a vast oasis of valuable information. That's why we make it available to our kids. However, to kids it is something more: a place to communicate with others. I installed VNC servers on my kids' computers, freeware program that operates invisibly in the background. From my computer, I could keep tabs, without the kids knowing, and step in if necessary. Yes, it's spying, but I can say that I at least had a positive impact on their internet usage and I have a clue (now) as to what's going on.

Posted by: John | September 21, 2005 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Good blogpost. It's not just about keeping your kids from giving their address out in illicit chat rooms. That happens, but I think we're all too modern to discuss the issues with pornography. While it may seem a harmless rite of passage to some parents, tacit approval to porn still has dire consequences. Looking the other way and vicariously giggling as your child surfs the net and downloads whatever he/she wants in their bedroom, often with their friends, is like providing them alcohol or any of a number of other dangerous "rites of passage." No matter how sophisticated and liberal we act when faced with it, we must admit to ourselves the statistics. As a schoolteacher, I've long seen the statistical correlation concerning "the good kids" versus "the bad kids" by how much porn they've been exposed to--often through "enlightened" or "spirit of the law" parents. Remember, for kids, even through high school, this includes many R-rated movies (and most of the ones they want to watch)--movies that, whatever they say, they're just not old enough for.


Colin Jensen
Novato, California
www.colinandbethany.com

Posted by: Colin Jensen | September 21, 2005 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Brian,

I am the father of a 12 year old. Thankfully at this point I am still
somewhat ahead of her in terms of computers and the net.
This subject is a tough one but here's what we do.
My kid has her computer in her room. Since I have never understood the
attractions of chat rooms they are quite simply forbidden.
Instead these kids talk mostly to each other with IM. I look at the buddy
list from time to time and so far all are kids I know are friends from
school.
Downloading stuff is allowed but I want my child to check each item with me
first. The reasons have been explained and so far so good.
A lot of this has to do with what kind of kid you have. If your kid is an
"easy" one. I mean by that generally responsible and not someone who spends
a lot of time in "trouble", that will probably also be reflected in how they
use the internet.
If your kid is more adventurous or in "trouble" a lot you will need to keep
a closer watch.
My experience with my kid has been that discussion and the kid's
understanding of why I do what I do are key components to the child seeing
internet supervision as something to help keep them safe as opposed to
making it a privacy issue.
Another key I think is doing whatever you do in the open, nothing makes a
person feel persecuted like finding out you have been digging around without
them being aware of it and why. That is when you go from protecting to
snooping.

Posted by: M. Melcher | September 21, 2005 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I have had internet monitoring software on my computer for the past year and a half. I have three daughters. My oldest gave us
no trouble. My middle daughter had bipolar disorder and numerous issues, including a boyfriend I suspected of dealing drugs. After I got the software, I discovered I was correct. Happily, they broke up a few months later.

In February there was a girl at my daughters' high school who just
disappeared one day, and was found weeks later in Washington state with a
man in his 40's. I would bet that her parents did not have internet
monitoring software. My youngest has a friend who had been in a mental
hospital who introduced her to a young man she met there. He had been
expelled from his high school for violence and had had a number of weapons
confiscated from his home. My daughter started im'ing this guy and I have
had to work very hard and surreptitiously to keep them apart. Someday I
may have to let her know what I know, but right now I have kept them apart
without letting her know why I suddenly show up in unexpected places.

The police department knows about this kind of software and support its
usage (at least the ones I have spoken with). The hardest part of having
it is knowing what to do with the information you get from it. One time I
was compelled to share the info with the mother of one of my daughter's
friends. In a way, I have had to become a little sneaky in what I tell my
kids, or at least very careful.

I've let a couple of friends know about internet monitoring software (I use
e-blaster). One discovered that her 5th grade son was im'ing some
stranger.

The internet is a very dangerous place for kids. They think they know what
they are doing but they have no clue about the dangers that are out there.
As I said, with my oldest, she gave us no problems (she's a senior in
college now). My youngest gave me nothing to worry about until last
February when she met this troubled young man. It takes a very strong
stomach to read some of the stuff your kids put out there, but I've been
doing it to protect them.

I would have said in the past that if you have kids who give you no
problems, you probably don't need internet monitoring software. But given
that my youngest veered off course quite unexpectedly and that the girl at
her high school was apparently well-behaved and a good student, I would say
now that every parent needs to have this stuff. You just have no idea how
fast things can get really bad.

You would be doing parents and kids a huge service if you encouraged every
parent out there to install this kind of software.

Posted by: SF Reader | September 21, 2005 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I'm of the same generation and thinking of Marcus Sachs, your children living under your roof has zero privacy rights when it comes to computer. To many time we read and see news reports of children corresponding with inappropriate adults. Why chance it when its easy enough to make them understand with the purchasing of a computer of the rules of the house zero privacy entitlements.

Posted by: Patricia Smith | September 21, 2005 3:38 PM | Report abuse

but is it the porn that makes them bad or the lack of parental supevision in general that allows them to be bad as well as find the porn?

Posted by: devils advocate | September 21, 2005 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I completely agree with your opinion on this subject. I have two daughters 3 and 4 and I am already planning on how to restrict access! My husband and I were surfing craigslist.org last night and found women for sale - lovely! If we were not looking, what are curious kids going to find. It's irresponsible to let them have unsupervised access just like it would be irresponsible to knowingly allow your child to visit a home where the parents are out. That's not an invasion of privacy - it is just common sense. Back in the 80's when we were curious teens, we didn't have access. Pornography was kept behind the counter at People's with shields overtop the magazine covers. Access to adult content is no longer a challenge nowadays and it is our responsibility to limit it. Society is not going to do it for us.

Posted by: Brenda Sonneveldt | September 21, 2005 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe anyone who has actually been on the internet would even consider allowing a child unsupervised access. Even legitimate sites like search engines are hiding a wealth of content that should not be available. If any parent thinks otherwise, I would advise them to click the "discuss' link at the bottom of any general news article on posted on Yahoo for instance

Posted by: Reality hurts | September 21, 2005 5:04 PM | Report abuse

While I agree that children and very young teens (maybe 14 and under?) should be monitered in their computer use by keeping the computer in the living room or home office and by checking the history and download records to see what sites they are visiting, I have two major issues with parents "spying" on the kids.

1. If you install keystroke software, read their emails, or read saved documents, it is the same as reading a diary and to most people (both kids and adults) this is a major violation of privacy and trust. Far better to cultivate a good relationship with your kids so that they will be less vulnerable to online predators and will come to you with problems. If one of my parents had read what I wrote in this way, they would have lost my trust and confidence forever.

2. Older teens (15 to 18 or so) need their online privacy. Teens have many complex issues that they would often rather sort out on their own. I wonder how all those teens who write for help on sexual health, relationships etc would feel if their parents read that without asking. I know how important it was for me as a teenager to be able to read about homosexuality and related issues so that I knew how to keep myself safe and that I wasn't the only one; there was no way I was ready to talk to my parents and had they watched my online movements and confronted me it would have been very traumatic.

As an aside, kids and teens are computer savvy and if you are monitering them at home, they will either find a way around it or use friend's computers if they want to look up something against the rules.

Posted by: Faith | September 21, 2005 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I generally agree that children need supervision. One exceptional case, though, is a teen who is questioning his/her sexual orientation and seeking information from legitimate lesbian/gay websites. When you're in that situation, you feel like you're the only one in the world with such feelings, and information becomes a lifeline, especially when your parents are openly homophobic.

I know there are two important counterarguments. One is that the parents have a right to know. That's true as far as it does, but it omits the very important cases where parents communicate their opposition to homosexuality in a way that becomes abusive to the child. Do not think, for one second, that this doesn't happen. Which is worse, a 16-year-old boy visiting the web site for SMYAL in DC, or his dad deciding to beat him to make him a man?

More serious is that there are unscrupulous people and groups out there who would take advantage of a teen reaching out for help. There, I would agree that the potential risk to the child is, in most cases, greater than the risk of the parents finding out.

The problem in these cases is that we can't always assume that parents will react in a levelheaded way to what they find out from Internet monitoring. For the situations others have mentioned here, most responsible parents know how to discipline in a way that's good for the child. When it comes to sexual orientation, many of the same parents might go ballistic.

So I would just ask that, if you're going to monitor (and you probably should), be rational, be openminded, and do NOT assume that your child is in danger just because of a google search on "gay" or "lesbian."

Posted by: James | September 21, 2005 5:23 PM | Report abuse

This is an opportunity to gain or lose your child's trust. Internet monitoring software is crucial here, because even the basic controls that are included in IE and other browsers and easily circumvented by a novice user. If you start early with your child while he/she is still firmly under your control, there will be less problems as they get older.

However, this also falls under the category of 'if you harp on this issue and present the internet as a dangerous place without the proper reasoning, it's only going to make you kid more curious.' It's like smoking or drinking or drugs: there's a point where you go from talking about it enough to get your point across and talking about it too much so now you've sparked an interest in your child to go and try it to defy you, the parent.

Bottom line, children should not have unrestricted and private access to internet, just like they shouldn't have cell phones.

Posted by: rbrianpinscher | September 21, 2005 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. Oppression or freedom. Tough choice.

Legally speaking, no, children have no right to unfettered Internet access on your computer. And neither do you, at work, or anytime you're on anyone else's equipment and connection.

But remember that your child naturally looks at you with both love and fear. You love, counsel and provide--but you also punish. You have more power over him than anyone else has over anyone in America, except other parents over their children. Even prisoners have more legal protection than children.

He can't feel free with you looking over his shoulder. If you're reading his e-mails and IMs, he can't talk online about the things that are really on his mind, except to the extent he's willing to talk about them with you.

It might be nice if he had nothing on his mind he wasn't willing to share with you. In my limited experience, I know no parent-child relationships like that--but if you are that lucky (or brilliant) parent, you don't need monitoring software.

If you treat your child as not entitled to privacy, you are saying: I don't trust you to talk to people without my supervision, but you must trust me with all your secrets--even though I am the person you are most likely to need to keep a secret from, since I am the person who is constantly judging you, rewarding you and punishing you (not to mention a person you have a natural desire to make proud).

You are saying: Don't explore. Don't consider whether your sexuality is other than I expect, unless you're willing to come out to me--when you may only be at the stage of doubting. Don't look for any other statements about sexuality except what I and your school give you (which means, if you don't feel comfortable talking to me, accept what your teacher says and don't look further). Don't consider whether my religion is wrong, unless you're willing to tell me your doubts--and face the consequences before you're sure they're even serious doubts. Don't go research anonymously whether that punishment I gave you is child abuse--just accept it or call the police. Don't make yourself available to your friends online; if they tell you a secret, they're also telling me, whom they may not know or trust. (Suppose your child's friend, who is also your friend's child, has just been molested by her father.)

And it isn't just the big things. Sometimes children--like everyone else--do silly things, and they may not want to do those on a stage either.

Lest we forget, it is impossible to be physically hurt on the Internet. The Internet sends data into your home, not bullets. Yes, sometimes people arrange to meet in person. But if you haven't already blown all your authority, and you don't think your child is a good enough judge of character to decide whom he'll meet--make sure you can intervene at that stage by forbidding him to meet anyone from the Net in person without your permission.

What loving parent would let his son or daughter go off on his own on the Net? One who respects his child, trusts him and is proud of him. One who wants him to develop into a strong, free, responsible individual. One who is able to see things from his child's perspective--and thinks that matters.

In my view, a parent who installs monitoring software without very specific reasons to distrust his child has inadequate respect for his child.

Posted by: Alexander | September 21, 2005 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I have no children and am just out of collage so I'm going to comment from a 'younger' perspective.

I think it is every parent's responsibility to know in general what their kid is doing. However if your kids distrust you then anything you say will boomerang on you. They will do it BECAUSE you said not to. Rail too much against porn for example and you might as well be handing it to them. They will go look at it.

Spying on your children is one of the fastest ways to get your children to distrust you. You are telling them that being sneaky and invading people's privacy is a good thing.

What I suggest is just don't let them have a computer in their room. Give them a study area, maybe a basement or someplace quiet where they can surf in peace but also make sure that they know that it is the family's computer. A friend of mine's parents got low end computer so they could do their taxes and other dull stuff and got a high end PC for their child. The catch was that the high end PC was for MMO games as well which the parents played. So it was assumed from the start that the computer with the internet connection was family use. Knowing that their parents would with good reason be looking through the computer stopped inappropriate access. (I know they complained about it ^_^)

The point is that a lot of parenting is like Judo. You can have multiple reasons for something you do. Work for compromises with your children. Tell them there isn't enough money for a phone line to their room. Don't put up walls to keep them out but try to deflect them around places you don't want them to be.


Finally, (Ok I ramble a bit) Always talk to your children about internet safety. Make sure they know that there are not nice people out there. Constructive paranoia is not a bad thing. It's alright to let your child drive a car or use the internet but you have to tell them the dangers involved as well.

Posted by: Megaduck | September 21, 2005 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Thank you all for your comments. It looks like overall most of us agree that (in all things, including this), we need to parent consistently, directly, and overtly. 'Spying' is when you're hiding what you're doing, not sure of yourself, and when your actions are really just a long drawn out nagging punishment. If your parenting is contingent on their actions, then every time you monitor them they'll lose trust in you. What we need to do is to _always_ look at their history file (ctrl+h is enough for most people), router logs (netgear routers will email you a daily log of visits), and not try to hide what we're doing or make it look like we don't trust them. Don't let yourself think you're doing it because you have a reason not to trust them; do it because you don't trust child molesters.

At my office I read (in my email) the router logs everyday. The router text messages my cell phone when someone visits a blocked site. When this happens, the first thing I do is go into the HOSTS file and set it so that site just won't load (it'll say page not found.) Half the time that shuts off the site they always start their hunt from, and they just assume it's out of business. If that doesn't work, I block other sites on the router, which actually puts a "blocked" message up. Only if that fails do I even consider mentioning it to the employee. But even when I do, I've never had an employee see it as anything more than me trying to protect them because I've had bad nights too and I love them... No one's ever seen my actions as a punishment, so there's never been a trust issue. Even when I have to punish them, I get the job done, so there's not any bitterness. In fact, I've gotten plenty of Thank You letters from those whom I've blocked.

It's like we said before--they have no privacy where I'm concerned. If they have it and I slowly take it away when they're bad, that's gonna' make them rebel. But if it was never there in the first place because I can't fathom why they would need it, they'll be fine. And personally, I think there are more serious issues than facilitating their sexuality. There's nothing wrong with late-bloomers.

As a parent, schoolteacher, and business executive, let me say the following rule of thumb aloud: Punishments need to be rare and "with sharpness." Problems come most of the time, when, in a purely economic sense, when the "punishments" are really just long dragged out annoyances, enough so that the punishment becomes a price to be weighed against the event. Then comes "I can get home after midnight, but my dad will yell at me, so it's all whether this event is more pleasurable than my dad yelling at me is unpleasant." No, punishments need to be not daily and mild (nagging which makes them avoid you), but rare and harsh (meaning pick one thing, and destroy it enough that they'll never consider doing it again. Nip it in the bud. Then ignore the small stuff.) And only punish things where they're intentionally and consciously going against what they know to be right. Ignore _everything_ else. Of course, all that needs to be followed with an increase in love, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy. Anyway, that's my schooling & parenting philosophy.

Anyway, anyone who needs technical help monitoring their kids or employees, feel free to contact me in any way listed on my site (email/phone/IM/discussion board, etc.)

Colin Jensen
http://www.colinandbethany.com/

Posted by: Colin Jensen | September 21, 2005 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Having just completed 41 years in Education I consider knowimg what your son/daughter is doing on the internet is a means of protection rather than an intrusion. You have to love your children "so much" in order to make these tough right decisions.
Father of 2/Grandfather of 5

Posted by: Tom | September 22, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I firmly believe that children have no right to privacy on the internet, or in most other aspects of life, for that matter. It is our job as parents to protect our children as we guide them through childhood, hopefully helping them to become decent and productive ciizens. We cannot possibly hope to achieve any of these goals, or the many others we have as parents, if we know not what our children do. YES!!!We ARE OUR CHILDREN'S KEEPERS!!! The good sense to make appropriate choices is not a born trait. It comes from experience. Who can argue that a child has that much needed experience? It is up to us to guide them based on our own.

My children have a computer in their room (I have three children, ages 12, 10 and 8) but their computer has no internet access. They have all the common apps such as Word, Access, PPoint, etc., as well as games they have installed. The only internet access is in our home office. If the kids need to use it for some school activity or personal research, it is there for them. They also are occasionally allowed to IM known friends/family members, but only w/permission and in the presence of myself or my husband. My oldest is sometimes allowed to visit gaming sites without direct supervision, but it is made crystal clear to him that I will check the history and his "surfing" will be seen. Strict consequences await him if he strays from the approved site. I always explain to my children why I do what I do and how their lives are better for it. Often I will ask them to think of ways that their situations would be worse without the rules.
As for discussions about porn, this is something I believe our society obsesses over and creates an aura of excitement around it for kids and adults alike. I do not approve porn sites, mags, etc., but I also do not make the human body or the act of sex "dirty" things in the minds of my children. My children have all witnessed videos of live births, have been home schooled in sex education, are exposed to open and frank discussions about the human body, how it functions, and the beauty that lies within male/female relationships when they are conducted appropriately. They all know specifically how babies are made and why people have sex even when they don't want babies. The porn issue is a flaw in our society and parenting approaches, not an internet access issue.

Posted by: lissey | September 22, 2005 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree with your comments regarding children's privacy and the Internet.

Just this week I found out that my fiance's 15 year old daughter has a computer in her room at her Mothers house and she has created two (that we have found) web sites on Xanga. There is a ton of personal information within her postings and MANY replies and links to other people that we don't know. She has also recently spoke with my 11 year old son and must have mentioned Xanga to him and because I monitor his computer activity, I found a "Welcome to Xanga" email. I was able to find his web site as well, and his also had his first and last name, how old he is and what school he goes to. Why doesn't he just give them directions to our house?

Anyway, I am going to let them go on while I monitor their activity without them knowing. And I have also installed PC Tattletale on our computer (which is in our living room) to record chat sessions, email and web pages. He doesn't know about this either. I feel guilty about doing this because he is not a bad kid that gets in trouble and I don't want to lose his trust, however, I do worry about the other people on the other end of the computer. I am currently pursuing a degree in Computer Crime Investigation , so I am very aware of what is going on out there and it's scary. I have also posed this question to the others in my class and we all pretty much agree that it is our responsibility as parents to protect our kids and at their age they aren't entitled to complete privacy, when it is something that could jeopardize their safety.

Posted by: Toni Burnett | September 22, 2005 1:19 PM | Report abuse

A parent is obligated to supervise their child's internet activitiesNot only for their child's protection, but also for the protection of others.
Furthermore, if a parent neglects his responsibility, and their child causes damages to others, from malicious internet activities, the parent should be held financially liable for damages caused by such activities.

Posted by: Manny | September 22, 2005 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I have a 15 year old daughter and a 12 year old son. Both have laptops in their rooms. I'm a Systems Engineer so I work with technology every day. As for privacy, they have a certain amount with my 15 year old having more than my 12 year old. It's a matter of balance. There is no one single answer here.

When it comes to their access to the internet, I installed a commercial version of spyware on their laptops. I can see every keystroke, every website they visit, every e-mail and every chat session. They both know it is there but don't quite grasp the scope of what it is I know they are doing. Basically I check who it is they are emailing, who it is they are chatting with and what web sites they visit. Generally I do not read their chats or e-mails unless a red flag is raised - someone new, something different, etc.. That is where their privacy comes in - again no one answer. You know (or should) who your kids are going out with, it is no different using the spyware. You balance how much you know versus how much you trust.

Quite frankly, I have used it more to monitor my sons time playing on-line games. And I have had to talk to him about giving out information as seemingly innocuos as his age. But neither one has yet to visit a porn web site or dissapoint me with their access to the web.

So bottom line is, I agree that children should be monitored on the web. It's no different than watching them cross the street the first time by themselves to go play with a friend. Eventually you let them cross the street on their own as they build up your trust. Works the same with the internet.

Thanks,
Bob
InternetTrust@Glandorf.org

Posted by: Bob Glandorf | September 22, 2005 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Just so everyone knows I am single and thank god I have no kids of my own. But I know several people that do have kids (including my two sisters). My thoughts are simple on this matter. At the age of 17 kids can start making most of the choices themselves-granted at 17 I was still making moronic choices but I was old enough to know that I would caught heck for it. In this day and age cyber land is very dangerous for kids. There are a lot of predators out there that are using this media as away to reach out to the kids. Parents NEED to know what their kids are viewing and whom they are talking to.

See I am a pervert and dang proud of it. So I know how some of these people think. Kids are trusting little monsters and they WILL take advantage of this trust. What parents do not know is that their kids could be getting pictures or sending pictures that no kid has a right to see or take. And as for the privacy thing...they are kids...they do not have a full right to privacy a special when it comes to their mental and some times physical well being.

It scares me to know what is out there that my own nephews and niece can see and just by accident. I mean say a 14 year old has to do a class report on sexually transmitted diseases. IF you do a Google search there is 8,830,000 entries just for that alone. How many of these are porn? You would not let your preteen or teen for that matter stay out till the wee hours in the morning, drink beer, smoke, or do drugs. If you found your child doing this you would have a coronary and then the kid would be grounded for life..if he/she lived though the yelling. So why is the computer any different? Do you know you can order prescription drugs on line with no real background check? Parents have to get smarter. Yes I know a lot of them are old and are working and are tired by the time they get home. Ok so you cant monitor the kids 24/7 you can at least educate yourself on what they are doing. Like with a program called Mirc. ItÂ’s a chat program that you can set up to log everything that is said in channel and in pmÂ’s (private messages) you can get a program like Net Nanny - http://www.netnanny.com/p/page?sb=product - And set up granted the teen will more then likely find the password or hack around it but the little ones wont be able to for a while.

I am a die-hard gamer and to me the more blood violence and chicks with bouncing umm..well you know. I am happy but I am a 29-year-old adult. Would I let my nephews (who are all preteen from like 5 to 13) watch or play these gamesÂ…NO because I take responsibility for what I allow them to see when they come over for a visit. Heck I even put headphones on so they donÂ’t hear the blood curling screams of someone being cut in half by a chainsaw (long live Doom!!) Parents you need to take more responsibility for what your kids see and whom they talk with online. Lets face it you canÂ’t protect them all the time but you can at least arm them with the right kind of knowledge to protect themselves.

Once again its time for the parents to take responsibility for the childrenÂ’s well being and stop trying to blame things like the media and the video game industry for perverting their childrenÂ’s minds. If you donÂ’t like what they are seeing, turn the channel, unplug the video game, and turn the pc off.

Posted by: Dennis Mathes | September 22, 2005 1:44 PM | Report abuse

If parents think that restricting access to porn sites is all they need to do, they are fools. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but words are far more dangerious. Viewing nude or sexually explicit pictures are not going to lure children out of the house.

Sex sites are not going to try to recruit your child into joining a subversive or racist group. What adults can see as faulty logic or distortions, children are very likely to accept as facts. Let your childern know that just because something is posted on the net does not make it true.

Posted by: Don | September 22, 2005 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Just to let you guys all know I'm 14 and happen to know far more than a lot of older people I've met, I happen to be pretty computer savvy if that's what you want to call it, I've built computers, learned a basic knowledge for all things technical, even can write a basic C++ application, all from the internet.

Around the age of 9-10 I started getting into computers, and at that time got one in my room with little to no supervision. I obviously then explored the internet bit by bit learning about sex, drugs, violence, and any type of crime you could ever commit. As you now stair horridly at the screen thinking of my awful parents and how I've probably now beat, raped, and murdered tons of people, think again, because I happen to be quite fine. In my opinion I either have an incredible mind, incredible parents, or just happened to not make the wrong choices.

I think the internet has actually helped me learn at a young age, letting me perceive the world better and in fact, ultimately make the right decision. But increasingly as I look at kids my age, even my own classmates, I see people that don't think the way I do, or couldn't make decisions as well and could easily end up as an incarcerated felon because of the information they find on the internet.

To sum it up I'm a kid, I've seen everything there is on the internet, and I can think and make decisions by my self. Also, not telling kids right from wrong (and in some cases not teaching them exactly the stuff that's wrong) kids things is a VERY bad thing, if they have any human qualities at all they WILL find out, whether it be the right or wrong information that's given to them. The internet is not the only source of bad information, everything is, if you're going to monitor your kids privacy PLEASE just tell them what they don't know to keep them from doing it. They WILL find out anyway.

Posted by: anonymous ;) | September 22, 2005 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I think you've got it, Brian -- regardless of whether you're a parent, and good source picks in Richard Smith and Marcus Sachs. As a parent and a long-time observer in this space, I think Smith's right about easing up on monitoring as they get older *and* not stating an age for doing so, because it's so individual. You got some great feedback too - have been working for years on getting funding for a virtual forum on online-parenting going. It probably hasn't happened because of denial or lack of interest on parents' part, but I think the interest is beginning to kick in now, with bomb threats at one extreme and kids forgetting to protect their own privacy in blogs at the other (e.g., http://netfamilynews.org/nl040514.html#4). The latter has become an issue with law enforcement people around the country, the National Center's CyberTipline folk tell me.

Posted by: Anne Collier | September 22, 2005 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, Anonymous.

Toni Burnett: My father's fiancee takes a much more restrictive view than he does as to children's Internet use. This may sound familiar. If she did to me what you are doing to your fiance's daughter, and I caught her at it--as I would--I would thenceforth regard her as an enemy not to be trusted in my family.

You plan to marry into a household that already has two members. If you want this prospective marriage to work out, I suggest you not alienate the member you don't love. If you continue on your course--I wish your fiance's daughter courage and good luck in protecting herself from you. For you are far more dangerous than any pervert she might meet on the Internet: She can tell them where to go and stop communicating with them, but you are not so easily stopped.

Posted by: anonymous@hwllhp.com | September 22, 2005 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to clarify one point... when I spoke of teens browsing legitimate lesbian/gay websites, I was not saying that parents have to "facilitate their sexuality" or facilitate their sex life. It's more about self-discovery. What parent would be opposed to that? (When it comes to LGBT issues, actually a lot of parents would.)

Posted by: James | September 23, 2005 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Good theme Mr. Brian Krebs.

Some tips to all:

* Teach and live intelligent values from the first years of children.

* Parents must since birth of their children gain and prevent to lose their children's trust along different ages.

* Parents must teach children to be 100 per cent selective and learn not to trust in persons with bad values.

* Parents must be the first to teach their children about dangers (including those coming from school, religion, social groups, sports, electronic games, internet sources, etc.)

* Parents must teach children to detect liars and deceivers and to be skeptics. Many children toys and very popular pictures even from Disney make children very easy to deceive persons. Parents must clear the wrong message from all those products using enough time to show children the hidden wrong message.

* Parents must develop intelligence work and policies to detect from the very initial stage any possible threat to their children safety (physical wrong information and moral). Parents must spy school contents, teacher's behavior, advertising hidden wrong and false messages, wrong encyclopedias, wrong history and history myths taught to children as the truth, tolerance to evil and unsafe behavior, etc. Internet is a strong mean by which children become exposed to mass cyber deceivers. Parents must not rely on unknown others to care their children's integral health and future. All kind of criminals work hard on tolerance as a mean to protect their market.

*Parents must teach children to love science, high level music, sports, and entertainment. This exclude love to noisy and illegal drugs world related music and musicians; Bad values polluted sports or pseudo sports like box and figures.

*Vaccines must be applied first to become exposed to the infection. Some infections can be cured. Moral infections, like AIDS, can never be cured even some can survive as bad wounded limited minded ones.

(1) Some useful Information: Augusto's Thoughts Wiki http://general.schtuff.com/
02 On Culture, Values and Humans Progress.
03 On Education to Progress.
05 Surviving the liar.
06 Dangerous Historical Myths

(2) East, west, home's best http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/main.jhtml;jsessionid=KRPSRFDJ0ZLOTQFIQMFSM5OAVCBQ0JVC?xml=/education/2005/09/10/edhome10.xml

Posted by: Augusto | September 23, 2005 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I received this response in an e-mail, but the sender asked me to leave his name out of it:

Our family's policy for three children, now on their own, was similar to Mr. Sachs'. The computer was a family resource in a shared space and they knew full well that I would periodically check their browser logs (a deleted log was as good as a sign saying "I'm trying to hide something") and the files in their personal folders and would occasionally just look over their shoulder, as would their mother. This was not an isolated "enforcement", this was just a small part of the overall participation in their schooling and learning process for papers, problem sets, projects and so forth.

We were among the earliest parents I know to have a home computer our children could use (1981, our oldest was 2 1/2) and internet access usable by our children (1991). We learned about the technologies right along with the children--we shared our successes and together solved the mysteries (there were some great over-dinner
conversations.) We talked about spam, requests for personal information, family privacy, chat rooms, marketing databases, Instant Messaging and on-line buying--pros, cons, risks and rewards. We discussed how not everything someone puts on the internet, including an identity, is necessarily fact or truth but that there is still a lot of value possible.

The internet and it's successors (you didn't think that this is the end of the technology trail for connectivity, did you?) will be essential and increasingly penetrating parts of our lives and our children's lives. Understanding these technologies' reach and power is a basic life skill in the developed world. Helping young people adopt and practice (not simply learn) ethically valid ways to use such a resource is squarely in the parents' realm of responsibility. Browsing and text messaging and blogging are only the tips of this issue. What about phishing and identity theft and hacking the school computer to "adjust" a grade or check on you college application?

To the parents who have been led to think that their minor child living under their care is entitled to any privacy that carries such present and future risk to that child (and to the legally-responsible
parents) I can only ask "What are you thinking? How can you call yourself parents if you cannot invest your time and energy in discussing proper ethics and behaviors with the child, modelling them yourself and then enforcing them?"

To Winn Schwartau's book title's point, cluelessness in parenting is just an excuse, and not an acceptable one. Go to the library if you can't afford to buy the book. Skip the NFL or reality or NASCAR program and read it.

Lastly, a thought. It may be "someone else's kid" that is today trying to con your kid out of his personal data to build a marketing database or using text messaging to spread viscious gossip, but will it be your kid who will be trying to hack into someone's educational, financial, health and other personal information tomorrow? How can we not equip OUR children to operate ethically in OUR world?

Posted by: Bk | September 26, 2005 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I myself am a teen (15 turning 16) and have all the privacy i want on the computer, well, this is somewhat biased, because i pretty much control my parents on the computer. I know far more than they do and always will. I think monitoring kids' internet activity is a complete violation of the 1st ammendment, they are going to find bad content on the internet someday, no use sheltering us on the computer. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: computer nerd Teenager | September 27, 2005 8:22 PM | Report abuse

http://www.yourpharmasite.com for your prescription drug

Posted by: Prescription Medications | April 20, 2006 9:47 AM | Report abuse

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