Hello, Threat. Come On In!
Recently I made a special trip to Wal-Mart. Randi discovered her old Nintendo DS in her closet, the first major purchase she saved for all on her own when she was in 4th grade. She was excited to be reunited with a childhood friend and decided the occasion called for celebration–or at least a new game for her DS. So off we went, cash from her paycheck in hand, to purchase a new series in her favorite game, “Harvest Moon.” Here’s a picture of Randi, now a senior, planting and harvesting, raising cows and trading at the market. I love this picture. Know why?
Because Nintendo DS is not connected to www.com–the WickedWorldWeb, that is. I don’t have to wonder what website she’s on or who she might be chatting with or what video she’s watching. My only concern is if she will win the cooking festival and earn enough hearts to bring peace to the rival towns in “Harvest Moon.”
Do you remember the Nintendo DS games? Or when the only computer in the home was a desktop, centrally located so we could monitor our child’s activity because we feared the evil lurking online?
And then desktops gave way to laptops, and suddenly we had as many computers in our home as TVs. Experts warned us not to let our kids use Internet in their bedrooms, so we made them sit at the kitchen table. We still monitored their online activity, but it started to take a little more effort.
And then smartphones moved in, and Nintendo games and desktops became dinosaurs. Even laptops are rarely touched except for school projects. So now our kiddos have the Internet at their fingertips, 25/7, eight days a week. And who’s monitoring?
Does this revive a little of the old fear in you, like it does in me? Or have we become so conditioned that we think a simple warning–Don’t be on websites you shouldn’t be–is sufficient?
I’m not anti-Internet. In fact, I can’t imagine life–or shopping or banking or researching or communicating–without it. But I’m an adult. I’m not as curious or naive, or as vulnerable or immature, as our children and adolescents. Since our kids are all of these, society and the law have enacted measures to protect them mentally, emotionally, and physically from things that can harm them…but not from the Internet.
Video games have ratings such as E for Everyone, T for Teen, and M for Mature, so our kids are not unknowingly exposed to violence, language, sexual content, and other subject matter that is not age appropriate.
Movies are rated so parents know a PG-13 flick is not appropriate for a 4-year-old and R-rated movies are too mature for a 14-year-old. Even some TV shows are rated now.
And the law requires our kids to be 15 to be employed, 16 to drive alone, and 21 to purchase alcohol. These restrictions protect their childhood, their emotional well-being, and their lives.
But doesn’t the Internet pose dangers just as grave–or worse? Yet, the www.com is unrated, wide open, unlimited, a beast with open jaws.
Now, I know many teens sneak into R-rated movies, ignore ratings on video games, and consume alcohol. The system is far from fool-proof. However, it’s at least an effort, isn’t it, to protect our kids? And that effort says childhood and innocence are important. Except when it comes to the Internet.
I fear how easy it is for our children to accidentally, or purposely, “click” and be exposed to sexual content and images. I shudder at how too much information too soon will emotionally damage them because they aren’t equipped to process it. They’ll be confused or disturbed, and won’t feel they can talk about it. How will this affect them now, and their relationships later?
That scares me as much as the predators who hang out online, waiting patiently to befriend our children and lure them into danger. We’ve all heard horror stories. The threat is real.
And yet, the Internet remains untamed. Now, I’m not suggesting we infringe on First Amendment freedoms. And I know computers and devices have parental controls. But let’s admit it. Most of our kids know 100 times more about technology than we do. How effective are parental controls?
I find it hard to believe the tech geniuses of the world can’t come up with some way to prevent inappropriate content from reaching our children’s smartphones. Goodness…online activity can be tracked to a specific IP address and to a specific device. Surely someone can figure out how to rate online content, register devices that belong to underage minors, and then prevent kids from accessing R-rated sites. Maybe it’s rocket science. But I bet if the technology geniuses with the computer brains had momma hearts, they’d figure it out.
Or maybe this could be a legal issue. Age limits are placed on activities deemed unsafe or too mature for children. Maybe kids shouldn’t be allowed to own smartphones until they reach a certain age. We could see a revival of the plain old cell phone, all text, no data. And children might learn to wait patiently again…and to exercise their imaginations again.
Or perhaps the WickedWorldWeb is just too big to be tamed. Instead, maybe it’s time we feel the fear again and monitor more closely. How long has it been since we looked through our daughter’s texts and photos, or checked the apps on our son’s phone? My answer…too long.
So I think it’s time for this momma heart to get herself a little more computer brains and figure it out. Monitoring…it’s not rocket science.
What advice do you have for parents when it comes to kids and Internet? Have you found it more difficult to monitor as your tweens grew into teens? If your child doesn’t have a smartphone yet but will, what concerns you? We’d love to hear your comments!
The MOM Journey News
You know how exciting it is when you’re expecting and the first ultrasound is scheduled? Remember how incredible it feels to get the first peek at your baby, to see all it’s features and realize it really truly exists? And then you plaster ultrasound images all over Facebook! (Enormous smile.) That’s how I feel right now! (No, I’m not expecting! Women my age are grandmas!) I feel that way because…because…I may be sharing my “baby” soon…MY BOOK COVER!!! I’m so excited and can’t wait for the publisher’s permission for the BIG REVEAL! I hope we love it!
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