Sometimes it’s scary to think of raising kids in the digital age that we live in. Terrorism, pornography, bullying, and so much more can creep into your home via the computer screen. It wasn’t like that when most of us were kids, but on the bright side our kids have such an advantage over this past generation and I’ll explain why.
The internet wasn’t really around until I was in middle school (I was born in ’82 by the way). I remember visiting a friend’s house who was not the best influence and fortunately that relationship didn’t last. We went down to the basement where that boxy cream colored IBM sat and she logged into the dial up AOL service. As the computer dinged and beeped for what felt like half an hour we talked about teachers and boys and acted like 12 year olds, because we were 12 years old. Finally we were online! She knew more about this world wide web stuff than I did and she quickly moved her mouse around on The Simpson’s mouse pad until she arrived at her determined destination. The chat room.
I just sat there and stared at the blinking cursor on the screen as she started typing away. It was totally random small talk with strangers. Supposedly boys. The small talk then esclated from How is it going? to I think you’re hot. faster than Homer can say Doh! She even said I love you (and other things). It was so bizarre, because there was no way for this guy to know whether or not she was hot and there was no way for my friend to fall in love with someone online within a few minutes. I was an adolescent and even I was mature enough to see how ridiculous it was! But for a lot of kids there were no boundaries when it came to the information they gave or what they looked at online. There wasn’t software to filter out objectionable content nor was there a way for parents to track what their kids were looking at or who they were talking to. There was no Youtube Kids or Kiddle. We only got those two sites within the past year! So as technology gets darker and scarier we’ve also made huge advancements to make it safer. That’s sad for the kids that were the pioneers of the internet, but really great news for this generation of children!
One reason this is on my mind lately is because Z got a phone for his 9th birthday.
For the record it is his dad’s old iphone and it can’t make calls, text, or us data. He is completely connected to his dad’s account and if he tries to go onto a website or download and app it sends a text to J which allows him to choose whether or not to approve the action. Z doesn’t get to take it out of the house and only gets it with permission. There are a lot of cool educational apps that he uses and I am really happy that he has the device. Even with all the monitoring I know we can’t keep him in a bubble forever so we have had lots of discussions about internet safety and have even gone through the workbook “Good Pictures Bad Pictures“. I’ll do a separate post about that eventually, but if you want to discuss pornography with your child I HIGHLY recommend it.
On top of that he has had lessons in online safety from Cub Scouts in order to earn his cyber chip badge.
One day I asked Z if he cared if I used his name online and he said “Yes and no.” I felt bad because I really want to respect his privacy and I asked him to elaborate. He said that while he didn’t really mind, he learned in Cub Scouts that you shouldn’t give your name or personal information on the internet. That was a proud momma moment for me.
On a side note, I realize that I share a whole lot more than some people would be comfortable with. On the other hand there are people I respect (including famous people) whose children’s faces and names are out there for all the world to see online, on TV, and in books. I think it’s a personal decision and I choose not to judge anyone one way or the other.
Last night was parent information night at Z’s school and I learned even more how much the internet is integrated into their daily lives. However, the thing that they stressed over and over is how serious they are about online privacy and safety. They use a curriculum called Digital Citizenship and they went over all of the basics with the students right off the bat when school started and will continue to cover more throughout the year.
Aside from being Amish technology is a part of life and just like proper hygiene, or safely crossing a street, or driving, internet etiquette and safety has to be taught. Thankfully I made it through the internet dark ages without too much trouble, but I have friends who can’t say the same. It was new and we had/still have a lot to learn. However, I am grateful for the resources that are out there and the leadership that is making internet safety a priority. There was no such thing as digital citizenship when I was Z’s age, but times have changed and as his mom I want to be proactive in equipping him for those changes.