Your Child and the Internet – How Do You Handle it?

Growing up in the 2010s

Lately, I realized that the internet will be a large part of our child’s life. For one thing, if his father has anything to say about it, he’ll have a domain registered for his name as soon as we settle on it. Not to mention twitter and flickr accounts.

Personal blogs and online video make it possible for records of his life to be available to the public before he can talk. Not just basic info like address, age and names of family members, but his likes, dislikes, moods, music tastes, activities, personal photo collection and (for some) a record of his online purchases.

Is it Safe to Give Your Child an Online Presence?

Are parents concerned about internet privacy regarding their children, when millions of people can view their home videos? And here’s some unfounded paranoia to chew on – do you remember Red Dragon, when the psychopath uses home videos to scope out people’s lives and homes in order to break in and stick mirror glass in the eyes of their corpses?

This doesn’t even take into account your kids’ own posts, when they are old enough for MySpace profiles and Facebook stalkers. I like to believe in the basic goodness of the human race, but I also realize that the Amber Alert stickers in retail windows are not just there for decoration.

The More You Know

What about the things your child can read about? Sure, there are privacy settings for both incoming & outgoing information. But this is the internet. I’m fully expecting our child’s hacking abilities to surpass my husband’s ability to construct blocks at about 13, maybe sooner. In fact, I will probably be offended if he is not this precocious.

But, You Guys Do It

Then there’s the hypocrisy factor. Jon and I work on computers all day and then come home and interact online through Twitter or blogs or World of Warcraft for the next 6 hours. Granted, this will change somewhat when we have a baby. But we still spend a lot of our time online, for our day jobs, web design/consulting, and entertainment, so how fair is it to excessively restrict our son’s time online?

Parents, Any Advice?

What do other parents do about this? If you have a young child, what steps do you take to filter the influx of information, to share with an online community but not risk your family’s safety, and to prevent your child from being completely addicted to the internet?

I’ve heard there are blocks you can set up, and internet usage cards, but it IS the internet. Part of the fun of it is that you can find just about anything if you know how to look.

These issues are legit concerns for us, and for any other parent with computers in the house and a Comcast account. We realize that we might be more tech-oriented than some households, due to our backgrounds and preferences, but going from the numerous photos of children I see on Flickr, blogs, YouTube, etc., we’re not alone.

Parents, how do you handle this?

5 Comments

  1. Thank you for your input. Giving your kids an alternative solution to being online by doing things with them is a great way to handle this issue, thank you.

    Re: setting up a fake account, that's an idea. :-P Hopefully it won't come to that, what with the web-cam/microchip we'll implant in his brain at birth. :-)

  2. One thing to keep in mind is that you still have a while before you have to make some of these decisions. Another thing to keep in mind is that you don't even know your child yet. After your child's is born, you will start to learn more about their personality, likes and dislikes, and you'll develop your own parenting style. At that time you can figure out a computer/online strategy that works for them. Of course, it's a good idea to start thinking about it now, but don't think that you need to have it all figured out by the day your baby is born. :-)

    Catherine is just over 2.5 years old, and her current level of internet activity is to watch a pre-screened selection of videos on YouTube, mostly Kipper the Dog these days. :-) She's actually to the point where she can point and click on the next video she wants to watch after each video finishes (most of them are just 7-8 minutes long). Of course, this is combined with parental supervision. I think monitoring and filtering programs are probably good once your child is using the internet more on their own, but that should always be combined with parental supervision, and never relied on by themselves. But that's even further in the future, so I'd recommend a wait and see approach. Who knows what the state of the internet and filtering technology will be by the time your child has reached the age where that would even be an issue.

    As far as what information we post about Catherine online, we don't really have many hangups about that. We don't post any pictures of her in an unclothed state, but other than that we post her pictures, mention her by name, etc. But what you decide is really up to you and your level of trust in the public. My view is that most people are good and that there are a few freaks out there who will find your kid whether you put their information on the Internet or not. So in the interest of providing easy access to information for family and friends, we put her info online.

    As for setting up her own website/twitter account/etc, we haven't really done much of that. She does have her own email address, but it is rarely used. In general I think it's kind of cheesy to set up an account and post as your kid in first person (same goes for setting up an account for your cat, dog, or what have you). However I think it's a great idea to set aside a blog tag or category for each kid, or even a separate blog where you post updates on the kid (as yourself).

    Feel free to let us know if you have any other questions or want to bounce any ideas off of us!

  3. Chris

    Wait, you want to block your child? If anything wouldn't that add a bit of mystery and desire for doing more things online. I find the best chance of protecting someone from something is to just be open about and explain what the dangers are. Do be open about the internet, though limiting how long they stay online is probably a good thing, but I wouldn't stop the kid from opening a myspace (but really, facebook seems the way to go these days, losers…) If anything, it'd almost be easier if your child does have a myspace account that you're aware of than one that they keep secret, that way Jon and instruct him on how to secure it, etc…. also you can read it yourself.

    Another thing is that for all the accounts, the parents will sometimes also know the password so that they can supervise to some degree, but that sometimes leads to opening another account in secret, but whatever.

    Alternatively, you can provide me with the information for the kid, and I (safely) scare the child away from the internet, if no swords!

    ps) I dislike how I have to now enter all my information to submit a post, nazies

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful response! It's a very good point – I may be getting the cart pretty ahead of the horse here. :-P Thanks again for your offer re: any questions – Jon and I both appreciate it!

  5. You keep your sword away from my children. It doesn't save your contact info anymore? I switched to a new program for comments – Intense Debate. Mostly just to make you feel persecuted, though. Thanks for your thoughts :-) What's new with you lately, anyway?

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