Filtering My Kids’ Online Experience Provides Me Peace of Mind

Nov 16

About four months ago, I erased all internet safety programs from my kids’ computer.  No matter what software I tried (granted, they were all freeware), the computer’s performance slowed significantly.  Add to that the effort I was exerting every time my kids called me over to add the protection password so they could visit a new website.  The most recent program, offered by Cogeco, eventually blocked our family’s entrance to the world wide web completely.  How’s that for internet safety?  Maybe it was trying to tell us something…

Although the filtering software did provide me peace of mind, I was so frustrated by the tediousness of entering password after password, not to mention the agonizingly slow page loads, that I had the local computer repair shop extract every shred of ”nanny” software.  The computer now works better than ever.  But that peace in my mind is a little frazzled. 

To compensate, I’ve been extra vigilant in tracking where my kids go online.  I always explain to my ten-year old (the most prolific of our web surfers) that he cannot visit just any website, but must ask me first.  I remind him that there exist a lot of horrible images on the computer that he does not want to see.  Among my bits of advice is a plea to refrain from any Google searches.  On the other hand, I am online every day and have never personally come across anything explicit or disturbing.  As a grown-up, however, I know what phrases may lead to unsavoury sites and likely, on a subconscious level, avoid them.  Kids, however, haven’t that built-in censoring system because they don’t have the depth of experience to understand the need for caution.  For them, the internet is just a bunch of fun games and videos. 

While my paranoia radar has been on higher alert since I removed the filtering software, one of the biggest benefits to the change has been an increase in communication with my kids about internet safety.  My fears have prompted me to talk to my boys about the dangers that lurk in some websites and the need for them to censor themselves should they come across an image that is scary or lascivious.  It has been a great exercise.  And helps prepare my ten-year old who is evermore hanging out at other kids’ homes where the computer rules are more slack than our webkinz-friendly household.  I think our open discussions about the internet have better prepared him for those times when his friend’s screen plays something inappropriate.   

I’m now ready for my peace of mind to return to its previous levels.  Yes, it is time for Big Brother (or Panicking Parent) to move back into our computer.  The timing couldn’t be better as YouTube has become a new fascination among my boys.  And I’m not sure anything else on the internet scares me more than YouTube.   It represents, to me, the Wild West of the internet where anything can happen without a second’s notice. 

This week, I will install Norton’s Online Family program which is offered free of charge.  The company has also just released an upgraded version called Online Family Premier that includes video monitoring capability, available for $29.99 for a limited time.  It’s a great idea, considering that visiting video sites is the third most popular online activity after social networking and playing games, according to a 2010 study by Kaiser Family Foundation.  And I may consider it in the future, but for now I’m going to stick with my old standby – plain and simple censorship.  Sorry YouTube, but you’re being added to the list of blocked sites.  I expect soon enough I’ll have to extend that apology to my kids, too.

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