Parents Are Never Going To Be Able To Monitor All Kids Online Activities

from the but-think-of-the-children! dept

Over the past few years, the "but think of the children!" crowd constantly talks up the importance of having parents monitor their kids' online activities, and often puts out studies like the following one, bemoaning the fact that not enough parents are monitoring their kids enough. Of course, the simple fact is that parents are never going to be able to fully monitor what their kids do online (at least without seriously pissing off their kids). If kids want to chat online, they're going to find a way to be able to do so. Perhaps rather than focusing so much on spying on everything that kids do, the focus should be more on educating them to the dangers that are out there, the laws that they should be aware of and the risks of not obeying them. We have this tendency in our society to overprotect kids, which often has the opposite effect: not preparing them properly to face the real world. Kids who understand the risks tend to make better choices online. As for those who are constantly spied on and overly protective? We'll again quote Richard Posner in one of his legal rulings:
"Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low ... It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it."
Parents should be aware of what their kids are doing online by talking to them about it, and helping to educate their kids on the risks they face, but that doesn't mean spying on their every move. That will only backfire.

Filed Under: education, internet usage, kids, monitoring, parents


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  1. identicon
    mobiGeek, 27 Aug 2008 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re: Re: The 80s wants their parental psychology back

    just talk to your kids about the dangers online and they should magically be able to deal with them

    That's not my take from the posts here at all. My take away has been that isolating children from all potential dangers only leaves them more vulnerable when they eventually do get beyond adult supervision, which as you point out is going to happen eventually.

    to supervise potentially dangerous activities

    So you do let children get exposed to potentially dangerous activities. That is a Good Thing. Only through supervised exposure can they learn to deal with such situations safely and responsibly. My neighbour insists that his son should NEVER come near a lawn mower. I am quite comfortable working with younger children: pushing the mower with me, letting them pull the rip cord, etc... By the time they are big enough to handle the machine by themselves, they'll have had exposure and experience to respect the machine.


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