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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How much can we protect our kids?

As parents, we have such a small amount of time to mold our kids and to teach them about the world and (hopefully) instill good morals and positive behavior in them. And even if we do everything we can to raise good, positive kids, there is so much out there that we can't protect them from.

I know this isn't new to our generation of parents, but I feel that it is exacerbated by Internet. I'm not down on the Internet (especially because I've built my career out of Net-related jobs), but the vast amount of information available to anyone is daunting. I started thinking about this after reading MojoMom's post called, "Reclaiming Your Mind Space...and your Family's." It's about the impact of all kinds of media on our lives and on our families', especially our kids. She wrote:
Why is our culture obsessed with what we eat, and the drugs that we consumer to artificially stimulate our brains, while we pay relatively little attention to the actual sensory stimuli we take in?...[T]he largest group of Internet porn consumers is 12-17 year olds, and the average age of first exposure to porn is age 11. What is that doing to our children's sexual self-images, ideas about what is a normal relationship and behavior, framework about what it means to be a man or a woman, and sex as an abstract experience versus a real relationship?
Right now Toddler in Chief has very limited access to media. During baseball season, he loves to watch the San Francisco Giants. After each play, he performs a one-man instant replay in our living room. The rest of the year, he thinks that television is just a bunch of previously-recorded shows that are available for viewing whenever we choose--which isn't very often. As for computer use, he likes to send email to distant grandparents and giggle at himself when the webcam is open for viewing.

But that will all change when he is older--probably seven or eight years from now when he knows how to navigate the Web. With our DSL, access is easy. We'll definitely set up some parental controls and do our best to monitor him, but it won't be a perfect system. He'll likely have access at friends' houses too, looking at who knows what. I know every generation believes that their kids will be facing a much more challenging youth because of the media around us, but the generation coming of age (my niece and nephew, 11 and 14, respectively), along with our kids, the volume of information and images--good and bad--is plentiful and accessible, whether we like it or not.


  1. Hello, Chief! As the parent of one teen and one school-age child, I find that Nancy Reagan's old adage - "just say no" - works far better for electronics than it ever could for drugs. We have one t.v. It's not on during the week. There's one computer. My kids have 'computer time,' and I need to know where they're going on there. Television in particular is easy to turn off. My kids know that I don't care if they watch t.v. If they whine about t.v., they don't watch. It's a good arrangement: completely undemocratic, and one small area of parenting over which I have the illusion of control.

    P.S. Put a password on your computer, and the teen can't do a thing without your consent. I love that!

  2. When I was a kid, we knew of one porn magazine that was buried over in an empty field near our house. Sure they were at the convenient store, but they were behind the counter. But now, even if you search for seemingly-innocent words like "boobs" or "penis," you still get dirty stuff. Type in not-so-innocent stuff, I'd bet you get videos, live chats, and pictures galore.

  3. you don't even have to type in the word boob to get porn on the web, try typing in sports and see what you find!! even with the parental controls set high I am amazed at what pops up!! my oldest is almost 12, we have put really strict guidlines on the computer now. She used to be on msn with her friends till I started reading what some of her friends were sending her. You really have to be anal and top of things when it comes to the computer, I feel anyways, there is just so much there and it is so easy to get ahold of. I think it is way worse then when we were kids. You actually had to be brave enough to go buy the porn from the store, now you don't have to show your face and you can lie about your age!! I have seen some porn mags as a kid and they don't even come close to the level of porn that is out there now!!! it is scarey.

  4. I dunno... When I was 12, my dad's cousin who worked for a publishing company would send us boxes of books. I was an avid reader and read anything. There was one book he sent -- i'm not sure he knew what he sent us -- called Diana's Desire. OK, there weren't pictures or photos, but let me tell you that book changed my life!!! For better? For worse? who knows. It seems like you cannot "protect" your child from much. Life is a risk. At around the age of 12, my father very pragmatically explained how sex works. And at that age, for me, I was beginning to discover my body... I think just being honest, encouraging dialog, and maybe having a sense of humour about it is a good approach?

  5. Ugh, this is an issue I wish I didn't have to worry about. I get all bent out of shape over all the commercials my kids might see while watching a show on Nick Jr, what more to the stuff they REALLY shouldn't see? But I agree with what a previous poster said - one computer, one tv, neither of which are in anyone's bedrooms so I can see what's going on all the time.

  6. I'd like to share a funny story about my 10 year old and the computer. The rules in our house are that you have to ask to use a computer and when you do you have to explain what you're doing. They often forget the last part and we ask.

    So, one day, my son and his friend asked to use my computer to look up something on google. Usually they're looking up game cheats and faqs and things. So my son comes out of the computer room and I ask what they're doing. He says, Looking up pictures. I say, what kind of pictures? He says, I don't know Friend's doing it. I make him go ask. He does and comes back with the answer that he's looking up some guy's picture. A few hours later, I go to use my computer and they've left the search up on the screen. They were looking for pictures of "Bob." No last name. No association with anything. Just Bob. I thought that was pretty funny.