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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Kids, Computers, and Safety (continued)

I wrote a few days ago about Rebecca and her misadventures on the internet. I didn't happen to mention chat rooms although I've talked about them elsewhere. One of the commenters reminded me about My Space. I replied that I worried more about chat rooms than I did about internet porn. My Space isn't a chat room but it is the sort of thing that concerned me.

Melissa S. at Blogging Baby must have been reading my mind. Her post featured a link to a discussion of My Space, how it works, and the reasons teens are attracted to it. Its access is limited to age 14 and up so I have a couple of years before I need to become concerned.

I'm not convinced My Space is the greatest thing since sliced bread but the speaker made a few interesting points. She said kids have almost no personal space anymore. Their lives are micromanaged from waking to sleeping, the malls don't want them, and the local soda shop is becoming a thing of the past. Teens want to "hang out" and their hang out spot has become the net and sites like My Space.

If you read the BB post, be sure to read the comments, especially the second from Caitlin. She talks about the ease with which teens elude parental control. The technical language is way over my head but I get the idea.

I'd like to hear opinions. I sometimes feel like I'm in a time warp and some objective ideas from the younger folk (and my generation as well) would be helpful.

Splitting the post tonight. I'll be back to talk about food and other things.


Alice said...

I guess it must be hard to find a balance between giving teenagers privacy and space and still keeping enough of an eye on them to protect them, and I'm afraid I don't have a clue how to make it happen. It's seemingly impossible to balance the two things together effectively.

So glad I'm not a parent. So glad...

Mary P. said...

My kids are 20, 16, and 12. The older two have more computer savvy than me. The 16 year old (boy) is EXTREMELY good with computers, just like his father. There is no way I would control his computer habits with software - he could just hack his way around it.


He does not have a computer in his room. There is a shared kids' computer (we have seven kids who use it regularly). A teenager is just as likely to be interrupted by a ten year old as an adult. Though the door to the room is often shut, we adults make a point of wandering in unnanounced, and without knocking, to chat with the kids. The kids each have a time limit on the computer.

As for porn, etc. We have book around the house. NOT porn! Books on sex and sexuality, nicely illustrated books on sensual massage, Q&A books about sex aimed at teens... If they want information about sex, they can do it in the privacy of their rooms, and I know the information they're getting is appropriate and healthy.

So far, it seems to have worked.

JBlue said...

Mary P, good idea about providing healthy information. I will remember that.

Granny,there's nothing to keep kids from claiming to be older at My Space, as so many do.

Eden said...

I still say that if a bunch of us over-30 types showed up and co-opted myspace, it'd become uncool damn quick ;)

madcapmum said...

I'm pretty sure you've seen my little blurb on computer safety before at Lindsay's house, Granny-Anne. We have one computer, it's in the living room, and it faces out so everyone can see it. Even when I'm working in the kitchen I can glance over and have a pretty good idea about what's on that screen. I'm sure that eventually, as my kids get older, they'll catch wind that there's something to be curious about, and they'll probably find their way in, but it won't be easy because here I am! My kids have a lot of freedom to be alone and unscheduled, in fact most of it, but not alone with the computer.

I have to add my voice to the regret that kids get to do so little by themselves. We moved to a very small town for that reason, so that they can walk around, go to the park, go to the store, post-office, bank, etc. without an escort. I think it's an important ingredient in maturing.

Andie D. said...

Wow. Another thing to think about. Mine are only (almost) 4 years old and 8 months, but we also plan on no computer in their rooms. We will probably also have some kind of filter in place, but I like Mary's idea of giving them plenty of good information.

I'm going to put this one on the back burner for now!

Caitlin said...

I think the technology is just hiding the real problem. We don't trust our parents and they don't trust us if they can't stare over our shoulder. That's why we retreat behind our friends only gates, which only makes our parents trust us less.

Gen Y's parents have pretty much proved being a friend before a parent doesn't work as well as they thought it would. How can we trust someone who keeps telling us they're our friend, and the second we confide in them, we get yelled at and grounded? It's not easy to regain your child's trust after you betray it like that.

Because a lot of our parents aren't like Mary P., you end up with communities like Am I Pregnant? that have almost 1800 members. That's not to say we don't educate ourselves. It is hard for us to broach these adult issues with our parents, because so many of them haven't adjusted to the fact we're now rising adults.

I think most of us would like to be able to trust our parents again. We'd also like our parents to trust us enough to discuss things with us instead of having a knee jerk reaction every time the media goes on about the evils of whatever this week's myspace is.

I guess our parents could throw down a fortune on parental control software that makes our decisions for us. Technology can change quite a bit over the 18 or so years we might live at home, and it adds up. Teaching us to think for ourselves and think about the possible consequences of our actions will last us our whole life. Given that in 2010 the number of us in the workforce will be equal to the baby boomers in the workforce, don't you think teaching us to make good decisions is a better investment?

If you see an example of something that might be damaging to the poster, show it to your teen and tell them why's it bad. For instance, listing your birthday and bragging about underage drinking... not so smart. If I were doing a background check on her, and her resume listed her high school, she's easy to find. Her profile url also includes what appears to be her middle name. Some search engines will rank a page higher if the search term appears in the body of the page and the url.

If she was applying for a job at a daycare, she'd probably leave out her experience at Hooters, getting drunk on her senior trip, and her preference to have children some day. Employers can't ask her about her preference about having children legally, but she's left herself open to being discriminated against. Her public profile page doesn't exactly make her look like she's ready for that "real job". If the employer doesn't do due diligence, some parent might and follow that up by telling other parents at the daycare. I didn't think about this sort of thing as a teen, and I doubt she does either.

I think that approach is probably a bit more eye opening than the ban it all approach that seems to be so popular these days.

Angel said...

I didn't go read the article at BB, but I don't know how MySpace can guarantee that younger kids won't lie to make up pages (as was the case with the 11 yr old in my daughter's class).

My daughter is quickly approaching the teen years......we talk about everything, so I hope she will trust me in the future.

Janice said...

Hi Ann,

They just had Myspace on tv last week and how petiphiles are using it to get at our kids. I think such things should be used at the parents discreasion, and suppervison. Have you looked through Myspace? Some of the girls there have posted some revealing photos of themselves. Not very bright of them, as it opens up a very ugly can of worms if you ask me.

I personally I don't wont allow my forteen year old daughter on Myspace, and I forbid her to go on a chat room.