Should You Spy On Your Kids' Every Online Move?

from the missing-the-point dept

With the news breaking yesterday concerning MySpace getting sued because a teenaged girl who used the site was sexually assaulted by someone she met through the site, it's no surprise that we're going to see more and more stories about how to "protect" kids online. There's been a glut of these stories recently, and they seem to involve more and more draconian solutions. The latest, in USA Today, is no exception, profiling a number of parents who seem to think the only answer is to monitor and record every single thing that their kids do. In fact, in one story, a mother watches from another room as her son received an instant message that included "an obscene phrase and link to a sexual website." The kid, smart enough to know not to click on it, didn't. So what happens? The mother still suspended his instant messaging privileges. That's not raising a kid. It's over-protecting. Only one family profiled seems to actually focus on parenting: teaching the kids that the world isn't always a safe place, and explaining to them the risks they might face, how to recognize them and how to avoid them. They have regular dinner discussions about those risks. In other words, they're teaching the kids how to deal with the risks, not hiding them from the risks. Over-protecting kids puts them in a difficult position when they inevitably do face a risk: they don't know how to deal with. Educating kids, teaching them how to do the right thing, and trusting them to think on their own is what parenting is about. Being over protective and then suing everyone else as soon as anything goes wrong only teaches kids how to blame others and put their head in the sand about real risks.

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  1. identicon
    Erik M, 22 Jun 2006 @ 11:32am

    Re: Its Easy To Blame Others

    Let us not forget to apportion blame to the parents either. In fact, I'd lay the lion's share of the responsibility right at their feet. You don't have to peer over your kid's shoulders constantly to protect them from every online threat, but if you at least teach them about these threats, and how to handle them when they arise, they won't be nearly as vulnerable to predators and scammers.

    Even better would be the old-fashioned practice of actually instilling values and morals into children so they can face some of these dilemmas with at least some kind of internal compass to guide them. Somewhere between sports, sex education, mathematics, and science, try teaching a bit about right and wrong maybe?

    Communication with your children is not something you 'get around to'. It's something that can save their future, their sanity, and even their lives.

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