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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Internet Privacy for Kids

I've always been interested in the policing of children's Internet behavior. Today a story in Slashdot touched on a new law in North Carolina regulating children's access to networking sites like MySpace. In the comments of the Slashdot post were these gems:
  • The odds of your kids finding a sexual predator on MySpace are vastly less than them finding one in their own circle of family and friends...The younger the child, the higher the odds that any sex crime against them will be perpetrated by a family member or a close family friend, and at NO POINT do assaults by anonymous strangers become more common than assaults by acquaintances.

  • When will people learn that spying on your children is not a replacement for good parenting? The fact that there's actually a demand for this sort of thing is depressing.

  • Not a total replacement of course, but spying on your children certainly is a part of good parenting.

  • I've raised three kids who now range in age from 24 to 31.

    I'm not and never have been my child's peer or friend - I'm a parent and the relationship between me and my child is and always will be asymmetrical.

    As a parent I reserved the right to investigate any aspect of my child's life when I had reason to believe that the child was at risk - and investigations into my child's sexual activity or drug or alcohol or internet use are IMO appropriate.

    Minor children have an inherent right not to be physically, sexually or emotionally abused - every other right a child has is granted by that child's legal guardian. My responsibility as a parent is to protect that child until (s)he can fend for itself.

    My house, my rules. Doesn't matter if the child is fifteen or thirty-five - as long as they're under my roof I will determine what does (and does not) go on in my house. For example my imaginary twenty-five year old kid is legally able to smoke cigarettes. He's still not gonna smoke them in my house. He can pretty much come and go as he pleases - with the caveat that if you're not gonna come home that night you give Mom and Dad a call so they don't stay up worrying about whether you've wrapped your car around a tree or something. Don't know about other parents but I can't go to sleep if I have a child unaccounted for.

    I trust my children and always have - that doesn't mean I didn't verify where they are (and with whom) from time to time. The internet was really only an issue with my youngest but I can and have used tools to determine what he was doing on the net and wouldn't hesitate to do so again if I had a kid in the house. . . .

    My children also know how much I love them. They're not peers or friends and never will be - they are my children and that relationship brings both additional benefits and additional responsibilities. Doesn't mean I don't hoist a glass with my kids or seek their counsel sometimes - they're adults now and in charge of their own destiny and even though sometimes I don't agree with their decisions but I have learned to STFU and allow my kids to grow from their own choices - good or bad.

  • My concern is that these children will get use to the idea that being spied on is an OK thing. Once they are desensitized to the idea of not having privacy, it will get easier to get them to conform to whatever the people in power want.

  • You should be honest with your kids and they should know that their use of the computer is not private.

Personally, I believe that kids should be kept away from the computer as long as possible. They are better left to play outside, draw pictures, and stay away from electronic gadgets. Also, kids don't need social networking sites. I personally feel they are unhealthy for kids and grownups, as they promote:
  1. Spending too much time on the computer.
  2. Unrestricted freedom of behavior with little to no consequences.
  3. Do you need a third one?
What rules do you have in your house for computer use? How to you look at privacy and monitoring for your children?