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
    Rose M. Welch, 27 Aug 2008 @ 8:40am

    Monitering Doesn't Mean Restricting

    Yes, just talk to your kids, treat them like adults. Don't punish them or set ground rules. That might hurt their poor little egos... Mike, seriously, that kind of parental psychology went out in the '80s.

    I wish that kind of parenting had gone out the window. But it most definitely has not. Instead, it's now holding hands with the 'If I don't want to consistently discipline them, then they must need medication.' school of parenting thought.

    Also, I think the 'Do as I do.' method only works if you're doing the typical 'My opinion is the right answer.' bit that most parents do. Unfortuately, parents make mistakes and kids can be pretty unforgiving. When I was a child, when I asked my mother a question, she didn't tell me what she thought. She taught me how to look at the information and draw my own conclusion.

    Now that I'm an adult, I know how rare and valuable that kind of upbringing was and I'm glad to do the same with my children, the oldest of whom firmly believes in Jesus, Santa, communism, and reincarnation with the idea that everyone can and should share, everyone should get a second chance, and of course Santa is real, mama, he's fun.'

    I believe that you can moniter your kids on-line, without making them all pissy and secretive about thier activities. What that means is that I'm going to stand back and watch them skin their knee, but if they're running into uncoming traffic, I'm there to grab them. Chat with whom you want, if they get nasty then you've learned a lesson. And hell no, you're not going to meet anyone that you met on-line* as long as I'm in charge.

    All that's left after that is to cross your fingers and pray to whatever diety you choose.

    *I do know two couples who met on-line and are now happily married. So I'm not knocking meeting people on the Internet is general. Just my kids doing it before they are adults

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