My Opinion Children Teens and the Net


Over at Sadico Junction in response to a posting Sadie made on the topic of Myspace.com a reader Greatwhitebear made the comment “sigh… your kids aren’t going to run into anymore bad influences on the net than they do at your local school.”

To which I responded that the statement was naive, and countered with “I think that unless you are with your kids when they are on the net you are being negligent.”

Mandy informed me that “That’s fine when they are little, but they’re going to want their privacy and space as they grow older and a mum or dad eavesdropping on a 13-year-old’s conversations with their mates is just going to lead to rows and resentment. If you teach them the dos and don’ts and to check with you if in doubt, then they’ll trash or ignore anything dodgy or offensive for themselves. Teaching young teens to protect themselves has to be better than trying to hold their hand 24/7.”

The only problem is that I see the net as far too dangerous to allow even a 13 yr old to cruise alone. In my opinion they shouldn’t be in chatrooms and myspace, the whole culture this has created is toxic. This is what I wrote in response. It is long winded and very polemic so I am posting it here so Sadie can delete it from her Blog and free up some space. Keep in mind as you read it it is my opinion and only one way to raise your children but none the less hopefully a good one.

Mandy – by your recollection I am going to be the nastiest dad on the planet.

The problem is you’re assuming that adolescent culture so to speak is uniform in its behavior around the world. Not every child in every culture or even community is net surfing and in chatrooms etc…
I think the cyberworld should be a very small part of a child’s life. The argument that all kids are into it does not fly, I have lived in communities where every kid was online and others where kids that spent too much time in chatrooms were considered loosers.

I intend to take my kids hiking rock climbing canoeing, kayaking biking, spelunking and maybe even sky diving. They will be too busy experiencing real life to be bothered with the lame world of Chatrooms and nonsense like myspace. Does this mean I am going to keep them from normal teen interaction, hell no. There are social opportunities like sports, dances (supervised raves) clubs, hanging out at the mall, camps and a lot of other social things that teens can do with or without their parents, rather than sitting at home typing nonsense on a computer about Britney Spears (sorry if I spelled that wrong) or the next American idol.

Do I want my kids mates to be found on chatrooms no, I want them to find real friends. I expect them to make mistakes in the real world. Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and drugs are the dangers in the real world. Dangers however a teen can avoid by seeing the results of dangerous life styles. I don’t worry about teens seeing reality, but a vast amount of what is on the net is not reality.

I personally do not think chatrooms are safe, not because of the teens in them but the not so teen types in them. Is cyberspace interaction normal teen interaction? Not unless you consider letting your child or even teenager hang out in the worst red-light district , normal teen behavior. There is more porn and garbage online than we see in the real world. There are probably less than 100 adult magazine and video shops in Ottawa, how many adult websites are there? Well I just googled the words “adults only” and got 148,000,000 hits, if half of these are porn then I think cyberspace does not mirror the real world. And no filter made to date, will stop a teen with raging hormones from finding “Horney Harry’s World of Porn .” What of racism? I can’t find one openly racist organization in Ottawa, but I google the words “racial purity” and I get 1,260,000 hits again if even a quarter of these are racist organizations that is 315,000 too many.

No I don’t want my kids chatting online, I want them to see the whole chatroom culture as lame as it really is. Even the adult chatrooms I’ve checked out seem to be populated by some of the duller elements of society.

Teens should be active out in the real world. Does this mean I will force my introverted son/daughter to be an extrovert No. But if they are introverts there are more productive introverted behaviors like reading, writing drawing painting and any other type of art and literature.

So in my opinion Chatrooms and myspace are a lame and dull place for children and teens to waist their time and turn their brains into mush. The net is a dangerous place were children need constant supervision until they are old enough to know what is and what isn’t normal sexual behavior, or at least have the knowledge to choose a sexual behavior that is right for them.

Will they resent these restrictions, not if I provide alternatives that they like. When I was 14 or 15 I went to the UK and walked around castles and palaces (that is probably why I have a history degree now), I was awestruck by seeing clouds from above as we flew over them. I spent hours as a child playing hockey on the road out front of our house. I hiked miles through the wood lots that surrounded our town. We tobogganed down Nixon’s hill, swam in the mad river, and ate wild blackberries until we felt sick. This is what I want my children to have as a childhood; not hours of mindless stuff like…

Studmuffin says: How RU
Sexy: Just great
Studmuffin: you see J Lo at the Oscars the other night?
Sexy: no I was gaming over at cyber burp

I want my children to know what it feels like to Hike the Appalachian trail to climb the ravine trail up Mount Washington, to spit off the Eiffel tower (and get growled at for it). I want them to say they read more than teen magazine over the summer. I want them to know who Tolkien is before they see the movies. I want them to be proud of the scars they got from cutting themselves on rocks while snorkeling. I want them to feel the rush of skiing faster than they ever have before. I want them to know that there are millions of stars not just the few we see masked by the city lights at night I want they to wake up to the bite of cold while winter camping, in the Rocky mountains. What do I want them to do mentally I want them to read about Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior, or even Mohammed Ali. I want them to have heroes like John Lennon or Pierre Trudeau. I want them to have opinions even some that differ from mine.

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5 thoughts on “My Opinion Children Teens and the Net

  1. As I said on Sadie’s blog, I want my kids to do all that too (can you take them with you?)

    But I also think it is vital that they learn the skill of using a computer competantly, correctly & safely.

    The net is a fantastic tool. I use it all the time, for loads of great things – including chatting to friends. How can I deny my kids that?

    Yes, when they are young as they are now, I actively surf the net with them (well actually for them at the moment). As they get older & understand what they are doing & that there are inappropriate sites out there, I will just supervise them – let them do their own thing while i am in the room & checking on them regularly. As I feel they are able to comprehend the real dangers out there, I will allow them to do their own thing & just check in every now & then. Hopefully by the time they are old enough to go making arrnagements for themselves, they will know what is and isn’t safe.

    As i said, each generation has to learn about new dangers. My parents rightly spent years taeching us about road safety – something they never had to worry about as children, but a desperate danger in my childhood. But i never had to worry about contracting Polio at school – my mother’s school was closed for almost a year bcause of an outbreak!

    There are dangers everywhere. Certainly in skydiving & hiking the Ap. trail. But with good education, sensile precautions & parental trust & understanding, our kids will learn what is and isn’t safe, how to minimise the risks and how to get the most out of all aspects of modern life.

  2. Good go, Bill. That WAS all behind me, but now the grandkids sometimes want to borrow my computer!
    Arghhh!

  3. It’s a good post. There’s no doubt in my mind: the lifestyle you advocate is superior to the huge number of hours teens spend in front of a computer.

    (Of course, we bloggers spend a lot of time at the computer, too; but I like to think blogging is a constructive and creative activity.)

    My kids spend quite a bit of time at the computer, although I do enforce limits on it. To my knowledge, none of them habituate chat rooms. Mostly it’s the time they spend playing mindless computer games that causes me chagrin.

    Although I agree with much of what you’ve written, I am also sympathetic to the position taken by Mrs. Aginoth and others on Sadie Lou’s blog.

    I would put it this way. The role of a parent is to prepare his or her children to be independent. At birth they are completely dependent. By the time they reach their late teens or 20s, they must know enough to look out for themselves.

    By the time they’re 13 or 14, one of two situations exists. (a) They’ve proven themselves to be responsible and trustworthy, in which case you can trust them online with limited supervision. Or (b), they’ve proven themselves untrustworthy; but in that case, they probably defy your authority and you have little actual control over their behaviour.

    Thankfully, all of my kids (and Mary P.’s kids, too) are in category (a). But lots of parents are faced with a category (b) scenario, and I honestly think there’s very little they can do at that stage of the game to turn the situation around.

    Maybe they lost the parenting battle years before, when their kids were little. Or maybe they just have particularly troubled kids: the little beggars do have personalities, minds and wills of their own. However it arose, scenario (b) is a real possibility.

  4. What Q said.

    Training your child starts at birth. By the time they hit their teens, they are within a very few years of being fully independent human beings. By the time they hit their teens, they should already have the skills and framework required to be making healthy decisions for themselves.

    Of course, we all know that teens think they’re indestructible and immortal, so they will make some dopey decisions along the way. Who doesn’t? Each generation of adults thinks the challenges and behaviour of their teens is greater and worse than anything they experienced – and they’re probably right! But somehow, the generations roll on…

    Our family computer is in a bedroom close to the bathroom. Lots of traffic down that hall. It is situated such that the monitor faces the door. The door is to be kept open at all times when they’re on the computer. At any point, an adult can (and does often enough to keep them honest) walk in unannounced. At their ages, this is sufficient.

    Of course you will give your child enough interests and activities so that their whole world does not revolve around the computer, but, just like I allow myself some mindless diversions, so I allow my children some.

    Warning: you make a huge flippin’ deal about this with your child, and it will become the thing they most want to do, just for the thrill of rebellion.

    My kids know my standards of what is and isn’t acceptable. I’m sure they defy them bytimes, but I’m equally sure they are not self-destructing, even though I have not, and never will, hover over their every keystroke.

    (And that conversation? You don’t need to go online to have it. You ever listened to the teems at the back of the bus in the mornings? Drivel. They should be embarrassed, but, somehow, they’re not: in fact, the worse it is, the more they seem to think it should be conducted at volume levels that include the entire bus in their verbal vacuity, like it or not… sigh…) Oh, I so hope my kids aren’t doing this when they’re out with their friends! (And if they are, I hope I never happen to be on the same bus. The mortification.) LOL

  5. Warning: you make a huge flippin’ deal about this with your child, and it will become the thing they most want to do, just for the thrill of rebellion

    I’ve heard this before and I wonder how often this is true. Some things need to be talked about a lot so that your kids know how important it is to you. I’m definately an advocate for picking your battles. I just don’t think that pretending something is not a big flippin’ deal, when it really is, could bite you in the bum.

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