Kids and Internet Safety

Heather is a blogging buddy from way back.  When we discovered each other’s blogs, like eleventy-two years ago (that’s Internet time), we realized that she now lives in my childhood hometown, and I live in hers.  In essence, we switched places.  With that in common, we made fast friends.  I even got a chance to meet her when I was back home for Thanksgiving last year.  In fact, she was my very first bloggy meetup.  She’s agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to guest post for me while I’m finishing out my vacation. 

I’ve hit the big time. 
Seriously.  I am partaking in my first guest blogger position, and
to tell you that I’m not the least bit nervous would be a complete
and utter lie on my part.  I have no problem making a fool out
of myself on my blog, but here at the Housewife’s?  Because I
have some common sense, albeit not much, I’ll behave.  Or at
least try to.

While I was in San Francisco
for BlogHer, I attended a session on Privacy, and I actually presented
a question.  Or perhaps it was a ramble.  Regardless, I spoke
up and asked about the responsibility of educating our
children about the pros and cons of the internet and their safety.  It
was a topic that a few others had on their minds.

I brought this up because my
children see me very involved with the internet on a daily basis. 
And monkey see, monkey do.  I’m not sure how it is in your household,
but I have two monkeys living here that I adore.  I have two monkeys
that have their own computers and internet access.  And I have
two monkeys that I grant the freedom to peruse the internet, have email
addresses, chat, and play games.

I know.  You’re thinking
that I’m crazy.  The world wide web is a scary place, and you
know what?  You’re right.  But so is the real world, and
just as I have educated my children on the dangers of the real world,
I’ve done so online as well.  To me, there isn’t much of a

What I have learned is that
it is much like when my father told me that I was allowed to drink when
I was in his presence.  What’s the fun in that?  I never
did it.  (Well, not then anyway…but that’s another story for
another time.  Perhaps when I’m not trying to impress the readers
of a blog that does not belong to me.)

So my children both have email
addresses.  They never check them unless they are expecting something
such as the retrieval of a lost password to Runescape or Neopets.

And the most recent talk that
we’ve had in our house was over whether or not my eleven year old
could have a MySpace page.  I was adamant for quite some time that
he be 13 before I would allow him to open an account.  I know what
happens on MySpace.  I know the freaks that you can encounter.
I know because I have a MySpace page.

However, peer pressure convinced
me that perhaps I should allow him to have a page of his own, and we
discussed it.  The two biggies were (a) I am his friend on MySpace
and (b) that I have his password.  He knew from the get-go that
I can log in whenever I want to see what he’s up to. I also set up
the security levels as tight as I could.  Fort Knox would be impressed.

I have only one problem with
his account, and that’s the fact that I am not his top friend. 
But I guess I’ll get over that.  Eventually.

My kids see me online every
day.  Working.  Chatting. Emailing.

They see me post about our
lives on a daily basis for all the world to see.

They’ve met friends that
I’ve met online (including Jo-Lynne).

How can I keep them away from
the online world without being the biggest hypocrite on the face of
the planet?

So I’ll leave you with this
question… how do you educate your children about what you do online
(if they are of an age that they understand?)

While you answer that, I’m
off to log in to Matthew’s MySpace account and make me his top friend!

Heather blogs regularly at Desperately Seeking Sanity, and she also provides WordPress hosting and installation at Desperately Seeking WordPress.

Join The Conversation

15 Responses

  1. My children are still too young for this. Prior to being a SAHM I was a teacher for middle school girls. One of the topics I taught in my health class was Internet Safety. Yes, you read that right health class. We had guest speakers (police that worked for the FBI) come in to show them just how easily someone could track them down given certain information on profiles. It was an eye opener. Teaching kids about safe internet practice is the most important thing any adult in their life can do.

    Still, I know a lot of the girls did not listen too well and have so much information on their My Space, blogs, and Facebook pages. That is where parents come in. Computers should be where everyone is, not in their rooms to use alone. Communication is the key. As you mentioned, you talk with your child and look at what is on their social networking site.

    Enjoy the time together 🙂

  2. Let me start by saying I’m not a parent yet, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

    It seems to me the same as teaching kids to navigate a big city – it is really important but must be done with care. Growing up I knew kids who NEVER went into the city. They were scared of the city. Their parents were scared of the city. And so they never saw the world class art museums, or the orchestra, or the historic sites …. but they also didn’t have to deal with the bums, the taxis flying at you when you cross the street or the traffic.

    So when/if the Lord sees fit to give us children I assume we will want to train them to be responsible adults … which includes knowing how to interact with people from all backgrounds (politely, with respect, but not accepting any word uttered as unfiltered truth) … it also includes knowing how to be safe … and how to discern which resources are worthy of our time and money. That includes time spent online.

  3. I just read another post about this very topic and wrote a long comment…should have copied/pasted it. It is a huge issue and most parents just have no clue as to what there kids are looking at on the internet. It’s wonderful that you are in tune and concerned – there is so much junk out there, and so much good. That’s where it’s a hard balance. Especially as they get older. One thing about Myspace….I let my teens have a page and monitored it, had their password etc. They were fine with that, but they didn’t realize what all their friends had on. Many of them just let anyone be a friend. I found out that my son’s page was only 2 clicks away from a gay porn site (and that was with us having a privacy service). The thing with my space is that lack of control over what their friends post. After that I spent 2 hours clicking onto their friends pages, and as of that day…My Space was done. I couldn’t believe what was only clicks away…my sons site was fine, his friends were fine, but it was the additional clicks that did it in. Face book is much more manageable, but that’s only one woman’s humble, but opinionated opinion. hee hee

  4. That’s funny you wrote on this, cuz I just set up my kids with emails and blogs for our homeschool writing assignments! 🙂 I am like you, I would feel like a hypocrite if I didn’t let them participate in the interweb 😉 But I have their passwords, and I monitor everything. Crazy people are the ones who do not know their kids’ passwords and check out what all they are doing – daily! I would say I will do this until they move out of my house, too. 😉 Hey, they are the kids, I am the parent. That gives me the right to make the rules while they live with me! hahaha

    Good post and topic! 🙂

  5. Hi Heather – I am reader err I mean lurker at your blog – NKOTB, you are so lucky. LOL

    Anyways I have two girls 9 and 5, and both have email addresses. The 5 year old only because she needed a name so she could play on the computer and not on her sisters name that has a little bit more freedom than she has. But she recieves no email, IMs or anything, and she’s only allowed to go to Disney and Nick. My 9 year old has a bit more freedom, but is monitored closely. Both computers are in the living room, and we reserve the rights to snoop on her online (read not really) life. She communicates with my best friend who I met onlines niece who is her age. And has been known to email my sisters, my mom and my dad, and my best friend. All of whom are ok with it. She knows about myspace because I have one, but she’s not getting one either, and when she does it will be locked up tight, and I will monitor her friends and stuff.

    My cousin who has myspace was putting her age older than it was, and to me her mom has a myspace page, is her friend, but said nothing. Plus she gave away her location and everything. I just give away the state. Her mom just doesn’t think with her brain and use it to think people are going to find them. But they can.

    My girls will learn internet safety from me because how can you stop them, I mean at 9 she had to do research, and because you type something into the google place and get some bad *read porn* links, I had to sit here with her and watch it. But isn’t that my job? And I told her why i had to because there is sites there that she shuldn’t be at. Computers are such a part of life now, so they definately need to be taught in school and at home about internet safety.

  6. Thanks for the great post. Right now, my 9 year old has to be in the kitchen around my husband or I before he can go on the WWW. But we are thinking of putting a computer in his room. I will be thinking of your post.

  7. This is such a timely topic. My 12 year old sees me blog all day and recently I let her start her own, closed blog. She really wants to open it up and let the world in, but I am just too paranoid. Her name isn’t on there, nor her school or any identifying information, but I just need some more information before I feel comfortable with all of this.

  8. Oh this is so interesting! I agree. I mean, my kids see me on it, I’m not afraid, but I do want them to be protected, because you can’t undo what they can see or find out.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  9. Let me be the first to point out that my children do not have computers in their rooms, nor will they ever. (Could someone please remind me of that because it’s so easy to think about sliding on that one.)

    Up until last night, all 3 computers were in my office. Ugh. Which meant all of their crap was on my desk and on my floor.

    So I moved one of them into the next room over. We’ll see how that works out. It was the 9 year old because she rarely gets online and I’m not sure she knows things exist outside of barbie.com.

    The other one is still in here. Where I can see him. He’s also very good about asking me to put in his email address or download things.

    He’s also very good at thinking that he’s just one a million dollars because he clicked the moving monkey.


    i should guest post more often… i get more comments… 😀

  10. My son has an e-mail account, but shares our computer in our family room. Anything he does – usually lego.com or computer games- (he’s 9) is under our supervision.

    I agree that I will not give him a computer in his room. I do need to explain a lot of stuff about the internet to him. But I do want him to use it and be familiar – it’s such a great resource. I also happen to think he would have a very amusing blog…

  11. Great post!! My son has been asking to begin his blog and after much discussion between his dad, him, and myself we have agreed to let him have a shot at it. I agree that there are as many weirdos in our town as there is on the internet and honestly I think they have a much better chance of finding my kids than a random person on the net. I like how you are open with your kids and that is exactly how I want to be too. Thanks for making me think and for letting me know that I’m not the only “bad” parent for letting my children become aquainted with the internet.

  12. This is a topic in our house but not as often lately. My son (13 years old) wanted his own My Space account. After thinking and reflecting and such, we decided he could but with our strict monitoring. His stuff was pretty good, it’s his friends stuff that I found the most disturbing. Even adults that I knew who had My Space accounts, had questionable friends on their pages and it wasn’t pretty let’s say. So My Space went bye bye! Funny thing is that he doesn’t care anymore. All of his friends’ moms are saying the same thing so I guess it’s just a phase around here.

  13. My wife jokes that as our kids get older their strongest memory of our household will be of us sitting in front of our computers. I know it is sad, but we both find it very difficult to disconnect. So we recently made a pact to not be on the computers in front of the kids when they get home from school/camp. It’s not that computers are bad. We just think it is a better example to spend time with them, play games together, read on the couch, etc.

    So perhaps as a result of our behavior, our boys – ages 8 and 10 – love to spend time on the computer. They want to play video games for hours at a stretch. We tried to set limits – like setting the kitchen timer – but they “mysteriously” couldn’t hear it when it went off. And if we asked them to get off the computer they’d say something about needing another 5 minutes to save their game (and it often took 30). I’m very tech savvy – worked at Microsoft for 10 years – and built a simple and effective timer program for Windows XP and Vista. I can set limits (like 30 min per day, but not later than 7pm) and the software automatically enforces them. It also gives the kids audible reminders, like “5 minutes left”. The fighting and arguing about computer time has stopped. Its called TimesUpKidz and I’m trying to sell it now. Give it a try and let me know what you think. You can download a free 30 day trial from http://www.TimesUpKidz.com

    We use the whitelist web filter in Vista. That means they can’t go anywhere without us approving it. As they get older, I think we’ll move to a system where they can go anywhere BUT we’ll periodically review the logs with them. It’s tough because eventually they’ll have the freedom to go anywhere and if we’re too restrictive now then when they’re older they won’t know how to deal with the extra responsibility.

  14. My husband and I haven’t dealt much with our boys online yet…but we are getting close to that. My oldest is 11 and I know the day is coming. We have told them that we will track every single keystroke they make and monitor everything they do online when they are allowed. However, it will be spot checks…not reading every word, but if something comes up that causes us concern, we can go back and read every word.

  15. It’s nice to see that many parents are concerned about their kids Internet activity as they should be. I am the author of “Internet Security For Parents” a book I recently published to help educate parents about the many hidden online dangers that face both kids and parents. I am trying to educate parents on many dangers including:

    Why parents are getting sued for $5,000, for something their kids are doing online.
    How blogs can put your children at risk.
    Innocent information kids post on social networking websites that predators can piece together to locate your child.
    Learn how to protect your children from cyberbullying, many kids have taken their own life because of this.

    I believe that by educating parents and getting them involved with their chidrens Internet activity we can make the Internet a safer place for our children.

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