Our local newspaper had a request for parents to contact them about myspace and to talk about how they limit their children's computer use. I wrote to the reporter and said this:
Confident kids who communicate well with parents and wouldn't be
tempted to sneak out or to lie wouldn't be in danger of meeting
someone who says he'll marry her if she meets him at the train
station. That doesn't happen randomly.
There can be something wrong with being cautious.
Disallowing instant messages altogether because of imagined dangers
is like locking a kid up.
Not letting a teen have a webpage because of imagined or rumored
dangers is like saying "Here's a big library—don't touch the books,"
or "Here's a telephone; don't call anyone" or "Here's a TV; don't
turn it on."
That's what teens do with computers—chat with other kids and make
webpages. What it's good for is practice using computers and
programs (some easier than others) and encoding and artistic
decisions (Kirby will end up getting help from Holly on his webpage
because she knows things about how to make it easier to read), and
To the claim that free web access inevitably turns up pornography:
This has me scratching my head a bit.
I use searches like google at least once a day, sometimes many times
a day, and have for years. Accidentally turning up porn sites is
rare in my experience- the last time I can remember it happening was
a good while ago when I was helping my son view various tattoos and
piercings. Even then it wasn't "half the sites."
We tried putting on parent filters once because my son got a few surprise sites when he googled 'wild west'. He was going through a cowboy phase and I think Will Smith had a movie out that he liked. So several porn sites come up, we try the parent filters. They made us crazy! After that my kids couldn't get into so many cool sites that they frequent. I was astonished at some of the crazy stuff it filters. I felt like it was keeping them from much more joy and learning. We took off the filter in less than a day and just explained to the kids about porn being on the net and that if they were at all concerned we would help them with searches. My two youngest want help searching, or rather they like Mom's company while they google.:0)
My teen girls sometimes laugh at the title of sights that come up, but can tell from that which ones to open or skip.
Or a family can say "There's nothing wrong with being cautious" and
just say no.
It's legal, and millions would say "Good; good parents do that," but
it's not a good unschooling move.
I agree, I have allowed my dd to have IM and she manages 2
websites. We talk about being careful, but I don't make such a fuss
that she will get major alarmed. She often shows me what she is
creating on her websites and she IM's with other gamers and friends.
We just need to keep the communication open with our children and
they will feel safe and will come to us when something doesn't feel
Just this week (Jan06) we were at a horsemanship class at local stables and the
instructor wanted all the kids to go on line "with your parents" and find
out something about the horses they were looking at. One mom said "we don't
let the kids go on the internet." not even with them. The instructor
smiled and said, OK the library then. But I just thought Whoa. They have
the internet and don't let the kids see it at all. Weird.
At the moment, our
house rule is that you can chat with someone, so long as you've met
Which has the loophole of IMing a predator you've met. Or IMing the
predator father of a child your children know who is pretending to be
If the principle is being happy and feeling safe, there's no reason
for rules (that always have loopholes).
The reason for this is pretty basic: There are predators out there who devote a great deal of time, energy, experience and effort to
into situations where they can be taken advantage of.
Predators are looking for vulnerable, needy kids. They know there
isn't a reason to waste time on confident secure kids.
If you concentrate on making sure your kids feel confident and
secure, that they have someone to talk to when they have problems,
who won't shut them out when the kids are thinking of things that
make the parents uncomfortable then there isn't a need for rules to
protect them from predators.
If you're a road block between your kids and what they're trying to
get, then they're vulnerable to someone who says they can give it to
If your kids tell you something and your focus isn't on what they're
saying but on how to get them to think right, then they're vulnerable
to someone who will say "I understand. Tell me about it."
Is that your house?
My kids know that if they meet someone online and decide they'd like to get
together in real life, I'll do my very best to help make it happen. We've
driven across states to meet up with families in their homes who we only know from
online until we get there.
A predator would have a really really REALLY hard time getting my kid into a situation they could be taken advantage of. A kid who isn't supposed to talk to anyone they don't know has much incentive to agree to sneak out to meet that person - the parent isn't going to agree because the kid was breaking the rules. They're easy prey. My kids, on the other hand, know that they can ask and I'll drive them to a safe meeting. If the "friend" said "Oh no, don't tell your mom" that's a huge red flag for them.
We've had some experience with abuse and predation attempts however. Both were people in our community, introduced to us, in person, by people we trusted.
Deborah in IL
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