This guy doesn't even have kids and he's figured it out. If you think your kid needs protection from something, you don't wait until the government steps in. You get off your duff and take care of it. Why is that so complicated when it comes to the Internet? Here is the current best-of-class kid protection on the market today.
From Eric Burns, over on http://www.websnark.com:
"So, as a good citizen of my town, state, nation and world, I would like to give you all the super secret method to protect your children from the dangers and images on the internet. From pornography and predation. From immorality and immodesty. From distraction and diseased minds. It is not 100% accurate, but it is vastly closer than any law, any technology, and any censorship that has yet to be developed.
And it is free.
First. Go into your son or daughter's room.
Second. Disconnect the computer. Be careful to note where the cables connect, if you're not familiar with them.
Third. Bring the computer downstairs.
Fourth. Go back to your son or daughter's room. Take the desk the computer was on.
Fifth. Set the computer and desk up in your living room. It should be angled so that wherever you sit when you're watching television, you have a view of the screen. Make certain the child cannot easily block the screen with their body."
He goes on to describe some very good advice for parents for enforcement.
Funny thing is, on his blog he's got a whole lot of comments from people calling this intrusive. Moving their computer into the living room is intrusive!? I find that hysterically funny. So the pervy classmate (or even the pervy adult) making lewd suggestions to your 14-year-old isn't?
Maybe my opinion is a bit skewed. I'm a bona-fide internet Nazi. My kids have lived with something considerably stricter than this since they figured out what QWERTY meant. They have never had a computer in their room, and only recently have they had game consoles.
Not only do I reserve the right to look over their shoulders, I have logging software on their computer that keeps track of everything they do. I have passwords to all their email and IM accounts. I can't say it's been perfect, but they abide by it for the most part for several reasons:
- Before I put this into place, we did some research together so they could see what the heck was going on. They understand the risks and they agree that this is stuff they want no part of
- They grew up with this. I didn't just magically come up with this after they got into something they shouldn't. This has been in place since the girls were six, and the guys were 8 and 9.
- It has a defined end - when they graduate from high school and buy their own hardware. It's turning out the second half of that requirement is far more defining.
- They have ready access in other venues to real information on all those topics other kids learn from still other kids, a pr0n site, or a bathroom wall. They don't feel the burning need to go and do this stuff because they can get the info legitimately.
- There is no Sherlock Hemlock guess-work here. If I decide something needs to be addressed, I have your number down to the IP address of the site you went to and the images you downloaded even if you've deleted them. I have dates and times and I know which kid did it.
- I don't try to police other people's houses. But my kids know the rules and they understand why they have them and they like having the freedom they do have. They're far more likely go to AirSofting behind my back than go hit pr0n.
And unlike most of the NetNanny type of stuff out there, they have total freedom until they screw up. There are no controls on their internet access other than to keep pages that have rated themselves as "adult" behind my administrator's password. I don't sit there and mull over their logs every night. I have some very simple reports I run that happen automatically and are emailed to me if the things I have set as issues come up. Then I can take a look and decide what action this stuff warrants. We've had warnings and some discussions, but I've only had to shut their internet accesses down to kiddie-rated pages for infractions only twice and both of those were back in jr high.
Don't freak out. This is truly important. If you run into something that concerns you, you talk to the kid and calmly apply the consequence for these actions. You do not scream. You do not have a cow. And the consequence needs to be congruent with the severity of the offense. I do not pull their internet access back to Yahooligans for using the "F" word in IM with their buddies. If this starts to come up all the time we talk about it, and if it doesn't clean up within the agreed upon interval and stay that way I drop an email to the gang included in the conversation asking them to keep it a bit cleaner. Since I know their friends and they know me they're cool with it. Only had to do that once.
Here's a simple concept for all those people who are having a cow about this limitation. If you don't want to loose the priveledge, then DON'T SCREW UP. If you want to be trusted, then be worthy of it. Don't go to those sites. Don't hang out online with people who talk about that stuff. Don't put personally identifiable information in a IM window. You would be amazed at how many people of all ages never even consider that as an option. If you don't want to be treated like a baby in a playpen, the don't act like one.
It's not like I'm doing this for kicks because I have nothing else to do. This is serious stuff. You can ask my daughter's 15-year-old friend who was sexually assaulted by a 23-year-old because she didn't think this could really happen and she went off to meet him and her parents weren't paying attention.
You're not missing out as much as you think. It's not like all this sort of thing is going out of style or something. All that garbage will be waiting for when you're 18 and more ready to handle the bad side of it. And by then hopefully you'll have learned how little you really need it.