Tip #19 – Offer Guidance and Independence When Kids Research Online

Sep 16

“I need to look something up on the internet.”  Ooooh, how I hate to hear these words from my kids.  Now that school is back in full swing, they’ll be throwing that at me more than ever.  My reactionary, old-school, protective impulse is to cry out: What’s wrong with the library?”  But no.  I must allow my children to learn using all these newfangled tools. In fact, I know that teachers are mandated to include online research opportunities for kids in their curriculum.

So I bite my tongue.  With the same trepidation that I allow my 11-year-old son to ride his bike to school, I have to let him and his younger brothers have some autonomy to travel online too.  In both cases, they’re likely to get a bit lost (today, said son rode in the opposite direction of the friend’s house to whom he was visiting. Yikes – glad I was there to set him straight!)

With some hands-on guidance I allow my boys to research inside the world wild web.  Here, however, are some useful tips that I follow to ensure they find the topic that they need, rather than a topic that will elicit broccoli choking questions at the dinner table:

  • Start the topic search together, offering ideas as to what kinds of words will help them find what they’re looking for.  For example: don’t let them type in cougar if they’re doing a project on wild cats.
  • Remind your child that Wikipedia is not the only source of information online and encourage them to find websites that are written in more kid-friendly language.  For example: National Geographic Kids and Yahooligans offer great info for students.
  • Try different search engines. Google is great, but Bing and Yahoo will offer different results that may be more attuned to what they’re looking for.
  • Remind your child to be specific in their search.  The more description they type in, the narrower the results will be.
  • Consider your safety setting on the computer your child is using.  Is it set for children? Or is he or she using your personal laptop that has no filters?  You won’t want to leave him alone for long on a computer that does not censor its google results.
  • Add a minus sign before a topic word to indicate that you do not want any search results that relate to that word.  For example, a search for Mars (the planet) should be followed by a -chocolate to prevent any results on the popular chocolate bar fro popping up.
  • Remind your kids that there are a lot of things on the internet that are inappropriate for children – and adults, for that matter.  Tell them that you, as a parent, also have to be careful about what you search for online because there are images and pieces of information on the web that are not suitable for your viewing either.
  • Encourage them to be critical of the source of the online information.  Is it a reliable source?  National Geographic Kids is going to be more reliable than Macsfavoriteanimals.com.

Of course, if the online sources fall short of expect ions, you can always visit the local library.  That’s my old-school self talking.

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Parental Controls for iPad and iPod Don’t Filter Mature Apps

May 16

In an earlier post I chastised myself for failing to set up the parental controls for our family’s new iPad. My 6-year-old son had inadvertently opened up a screen in the app store offering a myriad of sex apps.

Lest you’ve never searched for the carnal apps, there are a lot.  Too many to count – for me anyways. I gave up counting after my iPhone listed 75 of them. They don’t interest me, and frankly, I’d rather they not interest my three sons either.

After said incident, I set up the parental controls for our iPad, which asks the user to define which age-based ratings I wish to to be accessed in the app store. Imagine my surprise when my 11-year-old announced that he’d somehow come across a page filled with sex apps again. I’d selected “Don’t allow apps rated 9 years +”

“Mom, I thought you set it up so we wouldn’t see these?” he asked.  Thankfully, my boys are no more interested in seeing them than I am.

Perplexed, I double checked the controls that I’d set up. Yep, all exactly as I’d remembered. So why were these kinds of programs popping up? Not to mention all the apps that celebrate gut explosions and machete wielding head chops. Wonderful games for young developing minds, no?

Then… Eureka! I realized that the settings only prevent kids aged nine and under from installing the apps. It didn’t prevent them from seeing them and reviewing the summaries.  For example, my 11-year-old son can read all about these enlightening apps:

Girl Sex Mistakes

Learn the 50 most common mistakes girls make in the bedroom. Great for girls looking to mend their ways or [sic] for the boys who love them! Your map to more satisfying sex. Download now!

Aw, how nice that my sons can learn at such a young age that girls are actually supposed to work at getting guys off . Gosh, it’s never to young too start messing up boys’ minds (or young girls’ minds for that matter.)

Sex Secrets

How to turn a woman on, satisfy her in a big way and get her to do the things you’ve always wanted! (the exclamation point is my own addition)

The main features of the applications are:

  • Women get turned on by a few major categories of things:
  • Did you notice anything missing from the list?
  • Anticipation
  • Stimulating her senses
  • The transition into sex
  • Women LOVE to be blindfolded

Again, so wonderful that my kids can learn this. Shouldn’t every child know that women LOVE to be blindfolded. My only conclusion to that bit of advice is that the creator of this app is exceedingly ugly, yet more exceedlingly rich.

Clearly, the parental control feature for the app store is useless. My kids are unable to install any apps, free or not, without my password anyway.

So, Apple I must ask… Why even bother? If you’re going to be responsible enough to provide the means for parents to protect their kids’ young minds and eyes, at the very least…


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