Monday, May 16, 2011
Sara's Take: Kids and The Internet
It's strange to think of our kids on the Internet. Obviously, I show Eva cool websites- like www.seussville.com (games and magical Dr. Seuss coolness), or http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/archivepix.html (cool pictures of the universe, different stars, etc- daily), and a few others. She and her biological dad write emails to each other. My mom sends her emails too. I know that at school, she is slowly getting acquainted with the Internet.
Maybe I'm NOT so progressive in this one area, despite the fact that I write (on a computer) and Nolan is going into software development (also computer work), but of my friends who are parents- I'm pretty sure she is the least Internet savvy. I really limit computer time.
I keep remembering the horror stories of kids who have committed suicide due to Internet bullying or those taken hostage because they were in chat rooms with Internet child perps. I also have a bit of a horror story of my own. In my junior year of high school, I was in our computer lab to get some research for a project I was working on. I had emailed a professor at a local college for some resources and saw that he had responded to me.
At that time (oooooh, 12-ish years ago), there were few spam filters and I accidentally opened a spam message that froze my screen with a pornography ad. Of course, the teacher walked in at that very moment and I panicked to try to explain to her what happened. She didn't believe me, so of course, a trip to the principal and a suspension and all Internet privileges for the year were revoked. Weirdly enough, the principal believed me- I showed him the exact message and how I clicked it accidentally, but he had to follow school rules about the whole deal.
It was humiliating.
So, I've been REALLY hesitant to bring my kids into the digital world. I try to seek out educational websites, learning games, or like I mentioned above- ones with cool things they can see. I haven't taught Eva (my oldest, all nearly 2 year old Owen would do with a computer is put his head through it) much on how to type. She has a Vtech laptop that she plays with Nolan a lot, so I'm fairly sure he teaches her more than I do.
I am mixed in m opinion of how much access my kids should have to chat rooms, FaceBook, email, etc., but I also know I can't keep them in the dark. I'm also aware that kids learn these things on their own, gain a certain level of independence from the Internet, and also some part of their identity in our technology fueled world. I suppose a lot of my hesitance comes from a desire to let them be innocent for awhile longer before stepping into a world where everything is a click away.
I'm sure Nolan and I will come to some disagreements over how much time our kids can spend on the computer, whether they can have FaceBook accounts, etc. He's pretty clear in his opinion that a kid will probably set up these sorts of accounts secretly so they can do the same stuff that other kids do. I have had the parental focus of being open on just about everything so that our kids feel like they don't have to have secrets or be afraid to tell us anything, so hopefully we can all be open and honest with each other.
I suppose my own hesitation comes from when I think a child is 'old enough' to have different levels of independence. Nolan's parents were very strict and felt that independence should be very limited with kids. My parents allowed me a great deal of privilege but it came with the forewarning "If you mess up, you pay the consequences." So, if I had a lot of independence and messed up, then I had to pay the price.
I am both aware but cautious of the future and the Internet and our kids, I think. I'm not sure. I just know I want to be educated, I want my kids to stay safe, and I hope that it doesn't overwhelm them as they grow up.
-Some other interesting articles-