23 May, 2008

Internet Safety II

Mage pointed out rightly, that trust is sometimes very hard earned. Especially, when it comes to our children learning to behave responsibly. This is why it is more effective to talk to our children openly about what websites they visit or what games or online communities they are members of, than it is to put our faith in is some technological tool; in the hope, partially, that technology can take over our supervisory responsibilities. In my opinion, it is not really possible to protect/control/boycott your children’s Internet activities through technology, once they are actually logged on. Instead of installing parental filters, we should try to be leaders in guiding them in their exploration and adventures. Show them how to do so in a responsible and respectful manner.

In my case, when my children started going into the Internet (both were approx. 10 years old*), I spent some time and effort showing them sites I thought they would be interested in. Some of these sites were purely educational or concerned current events, but some were just very creative stuff. I adopted the same attitude as when they started reading books; I was selective about what content they were exposed to and supervised how much time they spent reading. This doesn’t mean that I controlled or decided the what, when, or how of their reading activities, I just guided and influenced their choices somewhat.

When they started going into the Internet, we discussed what sites they were going to frequent. I looked regularly at the sites, looking for subject material to use during future dinner conversations.

Our children also knew there was a history list we could look at. A list they were not allowed to erase. We didn’t say we were going to look at the history list every time they went into the Internet. We just told them, since the computer belonged to us, any of the activities on the computer was our concern. In those early years, there was conversation going on before, during, and after Internet use.

Please, do not get the impression that all went smoothly. Like all learning experiences there were hurtles to get over and mistakes were made on all sides. I don’t want to dramatize or minimize the experiences: the results were hard earned, even though the rules were simple.

To be continued…

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