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Parental Guide to Internet Censorship (I *could* be wrong!)

My lengthy opinion and cyber sitter links

I have been active with computers and modems for a number of years. More years than I care to share. The Internet is a strange new animal to many people, but access to other computers over the phone lines was quite well established long before your local news pointed out some of the pitfalls of this media.

There have been many stories told about the wisdom of giving a child/young adult a computer and a modem, and leaving them to learn about this rich world. The one that comes to mind is a local story. A pre-teen was supplied with all of the equipment he needed to grow his computer skills. He was actually writing and manipulating the programs and data that kept track of his parents business. With this sort of responsibility, one would almost forget that he was a pre-teen and capable of exploring the full world available with a modem and phone line.

After a long investigation and subsequent arrest, it was found that he had been manipulating the family books to his advantage, hacking out long distance codes and contacting every computer on the planet, breaking into credit agencies and obtaining credit card and personal information as a means to revenge against those that opposed him, and just about anything else that he wanted to do. All without the 'advantage' of today's current Internet connections.

I suppose that I view the Internet much like a very large shopping mall / library / city street.
  • In today's environment access to the information highway is readily available to those that seek it out.
  • Everyone that goes there, and does not do anything socially unacceptable, is allowed to stay.
  • If you stroll around, you are likely to see all kinds of things that you don't agree with.
  • If you are looking from a parent's viewpoint you see things that you feel are inappropriate for your children.
  • You will no doubt see children doing and saying things that you would punish your children for.
  • If you leave your wallet hanging out, it will be stolen.
  • If you stray too far from your child, someone is waiting right around the corner to take advantage of the situation.
  • If you don't read the signs, you will end up in the wrong rest room.

I could go on, but I will get right to the point. We live in a society that is very difficult to protect our children from the things that we believe are inappropriate. And yet it is ultimately our responsibility.

The Internet is a wonderful resource. It is that wonderful resource because of the open design and the freedom to present all types of subject matter.

My advice to you as a parent, or as a non parent person, that finds some Internet content inappropriate:
  • You don't have to go there or allow your children to go there. This suggestion should only be taken by those that are easily upset by the possibility of being exposed to the real world.
  • You can go there with an educated view. READ the signs. Avoid areas that you are not comfortable with, and MONITOR your child(ren).
  • Use the On/Off switch. Like the TV, Once in a while you might just have to turn something off and explain to your child that the material is inappropriate and why. The communication that takes place when a child makes a mistake/poor judgment is part of their learning process.
  • By all means install a cyber sitter software package. Much like a lock out switch on your cable TV you can filter a lot of the offending material. The problem with this is that a smart child, that is not being monitored, can easily go to the public library, and then to Radio Shack, and then build a box to get around your box and view what they want anyway.
  • Don't depend on the cyber sitter, your baby sitter, your best friend, your government to protect your child from material you deem as inappropriate. You are the only one that can do that. MONITOR your child.
  • Don't spit into the wind!

I have two pre-teen children.
  • I do not allow them to wonder around the mall without direct supervision. (They may not know they are being watched, but they are..)
  • I control what they watch on television. They do not have that appliance in their room. (While they do have radios, I do monitor what stations they listen to. Again, I'm sure they don't know that, but if they happen onto Bob & Tom in the morning, I can assure you we will be having one of those talks so they understand why I think it is inappropriate for them.) I listen to and enjoy Bob & Tom. For me.. and my value systems.. I find it amusing and entertaining.
  • I don't drop them off at the local library and expect the staff there to monitor what they are doing. That's my job. If I do it properly, they only know I am doing it when intervention is required.
  • I don't depend on the movie rating system or recommendations from other parents. If they want to see a movie, I watch it first. *Please make no mistake here.* I am not shielding them from the real world. They have seen many movies that are very real world. If that real world is critical to the story, it can be explained in advance so they are not shocked, and discussed afterwards when they have questions.
  • I feel quite comfortable having frank and truthful discussions about drugs, sex, and rock and roll. It is communication that will help them survive, not full fledged sheltering.
  • And finally. My children are NOT allowed on the Internet without DIRECT supervision. The Internet has not evolved to the point where one can depend on a cyber sitter to do our work. I have explained to them that the Internet is a place where there is age/value inappropriate content and direct supervision is needed during their access.
  • Guess what. That's just fine with them. They understand. Children are so smart today. A little communication can to a long way.
Parenting can be one of the biggest challenges one will ever embark on. Some things you just have to screw down tight and explain the locks. Open the doors for the things that are age appropriate and support their efforts.

Finding that balance is impossible. Bottom line is that if you don't know where your children are, you may someday regret that lack of knowledge.

If you can not learn to turn their mishaps into positive learning experiences, the mishaps will continue toward bigger and better mishaps.

Knowledge is powerful and useful.

Ignorance is NO excuse.

MONITOR and TEACH your children to use the tools to build their knowledge. Be it on the Internet, at the library, on the streets, or in the malls.














Below find graphical links to first.. A resource site which provides further information that might prove useful, and a few of the cyber sitter type sites that have been around for a while. I don't personally endorse any of these products.

As a note of concern. Please understand that it is VERY likely that any or all of these packages WILL prevent sites that are not offensive to you or your children. By nature of the software provider methods and or value systems.. innocent sites will be blocked. Do some research before you *buy*, to decide what is important to you when supporting the software authors of cyber sitting software.




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