Yahoo! Mother Board has asked us to talk about how we parent cyberspace.
This topic is timely for me, as I was just reading a post on SingleMommyhood where a single mom discovered that the laptop had history of visiting p0rn sites when in use by her 10-year-old son. Some of the comments floored me.
While a few recommended some cyber-safety tools, more parents than I would have expected felt that it was time the mom accepted that he is going to explore the web on his own. Part of me wonders just how many would have responded that way had it been a girl instead of a boy.
My oldest daughter is 12, and I still don't let her roam free in cyberspace! We have one desktop, and it remains in the living room where I can always see what she's doing. She has internet access at her after-school program, where she is also supervised by staff. Her cell phone's web access has been disabled. For now, that's enough pc time.
I have many reasons for this, but the absolute first is cyber-safety.
My daughter has already had to deal with in-real-life bullying and Mean Girls, she doesn't need to encounter it online, too! Nor does she need to befriend anyone she doesn't know personally on a social networking site. Her life is full enough without spending too much time online.
Now, I realize this might sound hypocritical. I'm on Twitter, FaceBook, I blog, I participate in a number of online activities (including Yahoo! Mother Board, of course). Still, I'm 37. I constantly think about the information that I put online, I take responsibility for it, and I have set up daily alerts to see just what is out there on me and my girls.
I know that the time is coming soon where Sylvia will have more opportunities to be online without my supervision, which is why I talk to her (and Riley) frequently about all that can happen on the internet. They have seen some stories on the news that we discuss, too. At some point, I will have to trust that they know what they need to know to make the right decisions when they're out there on their own. But we're just not there yet.
Even when Sylvia needs it for homework, I like to see what she is doing. I consider that part of my "parental involvement" role; to guide her in finding the credible sites to cite, how to narrow her search, and when she's writing, I'm always reminding her not to rely on spell check!
I think that their time is better spent doing other things. As it stands now, the girls always have to ask before they go on the computer, and I always ask why. If their only reason for wanting to go on the computer in the first place is to play games, then my answer is usually no. Frankly, because I am most likely going to go on in just a few minutes! Also, our pc's kind of old and too often, the games crash it. Not to mention, the dreaded sibling rivalry: if Sylvia goes on, then Riley wants to go on, and then we have to set the timer and make sure they've both had equal time to play, and oh, just forget it! Find something else to do!
I realize this may sound helicopter-ish to some, and even naive to a few, but this is what works for me and my girls. They're not adults yet, and just as I wouldn't give them the keys to my car at their ages, I won't give them unsupervised access to the world wide web.
For safety tips, check out Yahoo! Safely.