Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Technologically Unprepared

As a parent to three children, I often spend days, if not weeks or months, thinking about my parenting. Some call it over-analyzing. So be it. I am terrified that something will happen to my kids and that I could have stopped it. I do everything I can to keep them safe. Whether that means they don't walk up to the 7-11 on the main road with their friends (who seem to have parental units that are pretty free-willed with their rules) or them not allowed on the internet until I fully understand all the security options and setups.

I recently caved on a few techological fronts. I call it "caved" because I'm still not comfortable with the decisions. We finally gave our kids internet access. They have their on computer (my old pc) so that they aren't on my own baby (if there's one thing I get to myself, it's my computer. It was specifically built to my own needs and I will blow a gasket if anything ever happens to it.). But, before we gave in, I asked my husband to put in place the following options:
  • Only preapproved websites be allowed to be viewed. If anything other than preapproved sites are brought up, a password must be entered.
  • History of each website to include time and date always be visible.
  • I am still the administrator of said computer.
And there are rules to gaining computer time. All chores and homework must be accomplished before computer time is given. Behavior must be more than satisfactory. AND, because most of the time, Aden has homework on the internet, all long-hand homework must be completed first. Computer time, minus homework, is only 30 minutes regardless if it is simply a pc program they are playing or surfing the internet. The other requirements are simple to me, but may not be clear as to why to the kids:
  • Never use your real name.
  • Never tell anyone where you live.
  • Never give out personal information.
The first couple of months seemed to go smoothly. We even extended computer time to a few hours over Christmas break. The only person who seemed to have a problem with the rules was Nyla. But that's because she's four and not quite internet savvy. (We caught her shopping at Nick.com with a bunch of things in her shopping cart. I have my credit cards on lockdown. haha)
Then yesterday, Aden comes home and asks if he can join a website that is like Facebook but it's for kids. My overprotective mind immediately said, "Absolutely not." It breaks the rules: no real name, no personal information. I know how to protect my information on Facebook, but does he? I refuse to let my child, who is 11 mind you, have a facebook account. One, it breeds drama in school aged children. Two, it brings another issue I'm not ready to have to deal with: Technological Bullying. Three, he's ELEVEN. Even Facebook states one has to be at least 13 years old to have an account.
I know a lot of people who let their kids have facebook and/or myspace accounts. And that's fine...for them. Not for my children. No. Absolutely not.
So I went to the site. It's called Kidswirl. Members have to be between the ages of 2 and 12. Tell me, what two year old knows how to navigate a social website?? Anyway, it seems to be ok. But still, I'm not sure about it. I will definetly have to discuss this with my husband and investigate the site further.

I swore, up and down, sideways, and forwards and back - my child would NEVER have a cell phone until he or she was old enough to have a job and pay for it themselves. He begged and begged for his own cell phone. Logically, we declined. There is no need for it. He doesn't use the house phone. He doesn't call anyone. All of his friends live within a block from our home. Why is there a need for a cell phone?
Some people claim they do it for the protection of their children. While I don't buy that, I do buy that it is a better peace of mind. I am not liberal with my nine and eleven year old's boundaries outside of this house. They are allowed outside without my supervision, however, they do need to check in, often. They aren't allowed past the park - which is a tiny playground four houses down from us - nor past the last house on our block - yet another four houses in the opposite direction. They must ask before entering a friend's house. I must know that parent. There are all types of rules I put in place simply for their safety.
So I caved. This past Christmas, my son, 11, received his first cell phone. My husband and I chose to add him to our family plan versus a prepay for a number of reasons. It was cheaper. However, I am always in control of his phone this way. Even if he were to delete his call history, I can still see it on detailed billing. It doesn't go to school because his school has strict rules against cell phones in school, even if it is off. His boundaries are extended, only if he has his cell on him. And he must still check in, in person.
So far, it's working. However, it is only a status symbol. Him and his cell. I hadn't realized that before.

I often look to my own upbringing to decide when my children are old enough to do this, that, or the other. And often, I fail because when I was growing up, we didn't have computers and cell phones. Hell, I didn't even have cable until I was 15 years old.
I'm sure our parents said it, and here I am saying it again, kids grow up way too fast these days. I was 23 years old when I received my first cell phone. It was something I paid for, not my parents. I was 22 when I got my first computer. Again, I paid for it, not my parents. And I'm still not techologically smart. I still have to look things up and work hard to understand a lot of things.  

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