Monday, December 22, 2008

Monitoring kids' activity online

I keep seeing these commercials for Mojave, some kind of computer software that claims to allow parents to monitor everything their kids do online. It's made me think a lot about this, because the concept bothers me but I also know that it's very murky because it's such new ground. Parents at the moment did not grow up with the Internet; their kids are the first generation who will not be able to remember a time before it. So of course everyone is kind of muddling through without even the example of what their parents did to guide them.

Still, I find things like this to be distasteful. In the same way that I wouldn't read my kids' diaries, or eavesdrop on their phone conversations, or spy on them in any other way, I find it inappropriate and invasive to be so intrusive on your kids' activity online.

But it's a bit deeper than that. I know it's scary because kids can encounter anyone online, people they would likely not encounter in the course of their daily lives, and can give away information that they really should not be giving away. I can understand that instinctive reaction. But I think that by watching everything your kids do online, instead of teaching them to make smart choices for themselves, you're just eroding the trusting relationship between the two of you, and setting them up not to be able to make reasonable choices for themselves later on. Unless you're going to follow your kids around college and beyond, at some point they're going to be out in the world, where they could encounter scary and malicious people, and they're going to have to be able to protect themselves.

Plus, I think that the online community provides a lot of value to people of all ages. You as blog readers already know how much we can all get out of being online. As well, as the internet grows and becomes more sophisticated, there are more targeted sites and communities for people of different ages and with different interests. It's not just a big mass of people on ICQ and Bolt anymore. This means that kids are less likely to stumble onto inappropriate sites out of boredom and will be more likely to stick with age-appropriate stuff that interests them and is easily accessible.

I remember how my mother told me, once we got the internet at our house when I was in middle school, that I wasn't allowed to talk to people I hadn't met online because she felt that it was a waste of time. Obviously, having met my husband online, I can say that I disagree with that statement. But I also feel that meeting people online at a younger age can be beneficial as well. It's a way for your child to expand her horizons, to encounter people with different perspectives, and also a way for her to connect with people that she may not know in her own small town or small school. If she's learning a language, maybe she can connect with a native speaker of that language online.

In general, my feeling on kids and the internet is that it's something that needs to be talked about openly, in an age-appropriate manner. If your kid is old enough to be doing things online on their own, they should be old enough to understand the potential ramifications of what they're doing. I don't see why you can't explain to your child what online actions are risky, lay some ground rules, offer some suggestions, and make her aware that if she ever has a question or a concern, she can always talk to you about it. And then trust her from there, as you would in any other area of her life.

If your child does exhibit dangerous behaviors or poor judgment, online or off, or if they seem to have an internet addiction, that's another story. But as long as you don't have reason to mistrust your kids, I don't see why you should be checking out their every keystroke.

What do you think? If you do have kids, how do you approach this issue? If you don't, how do you think you would?


  1. we have a 12 year old who for the most part is not all that interested in the internet, when he goes to his moms he was iming with the girlfriend at the time and his mom was reading his conversations which is how we found out he was still thinking of hurting himself. i think the monitoring thing is a case by case kind of issue. we have told him what is acceptable and not and have also blocked certain things-that he knows about. it is definatly a challenge!

  2. Now that I have kids, and since I'm familiar with the Internet (good and bad!) I have to say that I would have absolutely no problem or guilt monitoring what my kids do online.
    If it came to a point where I thought it was necessary, I would possibly use the software you mentioned, or something like it. (I've never heard of the one you mentioned.) Trust is absolutely important, but their safety is definitely #1.

  3. I'm all for teaching our children how to monitor their own actions, how to be safe in public and online, and who to trust/distrust.

    HOWEVER.. children (let's say, age 11 to 16) have NO IDEA the ramifications of their actions. That's what being a tween/teen means. They learn by making mistakes. Too often, those online mistakes lead to disastrous and traumatizing situations.

    I've worked with over a dozen girls who have been victims of computer crimes. They've had sexual conversations with pornographic pictures.. they've met men for dating purposes (thinking they were teens), girls who have been raped, or sent pornographic pictures of themselves to others. It's just too wide open. More is happening online than happens on the phone, or even in person. It feel rather anonymous and innocent - but online activities never go away. They can be passed email through email, posted on websites.. it's scary and dangerous.

    You could look at almost any teen's MySpace right now and find out exactly what school they go to - even if they don't list it. Even if they follow all the rules.

    There are predators TARGETING our children. They are wise, savvy, and know how to make them feel amazing - coaxing them out of their good judgement.

    I don't think parents should read EVERY conversation, email, etc. I do think they should gently keep tabs, keep the computer in a public room in the house, and have conversations OFTEN.

    Too many parents DON'T do these things, don't educate themselves about computers, don't know who their children's friends are, or what they're doing online.. leaving their children vulnerable. Kids have NO IDEA the ramifications.. and they can't possibly. That's OUR JOB as adults to help them - by educating ourselves, them, and additionally keeping two eyes on them.

  4. First of all, Mojave is Windows Vista. It's the worst, most ridiculous campaign, because I, too, could demonstrate what a turd does with a lot of smoke and mirrors, but it's still a turd.

    As for what we're doing, Adam and I are both VERY tech savvy, but dude, we're totally monitoring it AND teaching them. But yes, monitoring it is a big part of it, absolutely. Remember, kids are getting online at a younger and younger age, and no, I don't think a ten-year-old is necessarily capable of being taught how to make the smartest decisions online without some monitoring. I also don't think they can match wits with an online bully or predator at that age.

    I know that sounds Draconian, but I think it's a nice sentiment to think that kids deserve privacy, but I suppose I remember my own childhood well enough to know that I didn't have, or necessarily DESERVE, privacy, particularly when I was younger. I got plenty when I was older and/or had proven myself in some areas, but not all, and not entirely until I'd left the house.

  5. When we first got the Internet my mom hardly had any idea of what it was, let alone how to monitor it. The first few years my sisters and I (in junior high) learned a TON about chat rooms and such and saw/read a lot of things I would rather I hadn't. When I have kids I'm sure the technological advances will be so significant that "The Internet" will be completely different. Teenagers are prone to doing stupid, sometimes harmful things, and while I don't want to "spy" on my kids, I do want to keep them safe.

    Great post.

  6. You said:But I think that by watching everything your kids do online, instead of teaching them to make smart choices for themselves, you're just eroding the trusting relationship between the two of you, and setting them up not to be able to make reasonable choices for themselves later on. I couldn't have said it better myself.

    Reading the comments so far, it's interesting that people WITH kids would have no problems monitoring their behavior. And those of us without them might feel otherwise. What's sad is so many people of our generation associate BAD things with the internet. I still get funny looks and moments of pause when I say I met my husband on the internet. People think it's populated with freaks. Which it certainly is. But so are our neighborhoods. Our parks. Our society. So, the point really is that the Internet is not unlike other areas of our lives ... and we must approach it with caution and assertiveness. I'm not against intervention (i.e., monitoring online behavior), but it will most certainly NOT be my first line of defense.

  7. I would like to add, too, that Melly said a lot of what I wanted to say. People are actively targeting kids, first of all, and ABSOLUTELY going to the sites targeted towards children and are quite good at it.

    And she's also right -- kids have no clue about the consequences of their actions. Hell, and I'm sorry to be this direct, but I know an alarming number of BLOGGERS who are ADULTS (who should know better) who are completely lacking an understanding of the Internet and have already created situations for themselves that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

    And also, I know more than one (three? four?) teenage girl who's made some very, very stupid online decisions, particularly on sites like My Space. And these are girls with outstanding parents who were given just a *little* too much freedom.

  8. Nilsa, I don't have kids yet (brewing one now), but I have to say that I don't associate the Internet with bad things at all. Personally, I've had nothing but positive experiences, and don't think it's odd at all that people meet their mates online.

    But I do think that not monitoring your kids' behavior online is no different than not knowing their real-life friends or making sure they're where they say they're going to be on the weekends and generally being involved in their lives. We all -- especially bloggers and other online-savvy people -- know how real this environment is. No parent would consider not being involved in their offline world, so why should we recuse ourselves from the online one, which is no less real, and no less dangerous?

    (I'll shut up now!)

  9. Goodness! Lot of long opinions about this one. I know I'll cross the bridge when I come to it but I'm pretty sure I'll be laid back about the internet thing. I can't say the same for my husband who will probably monitor everything having to do with our children :)

  10. I spent years running programs for school age kids, and here is what I've learned: kids need to be taught and monitored when it comes to the internet, just as any other area of life. We monitored the computer use the same way we monitored the playground or any other area: by being there, being visible, being available for questions and open conversation, etc. It is all in how you approach it. You can monitor what is going on without spying or invading privacy.

    When (if?) we have kids, the computer will be in a public area of the house, we will be as aware of who their online friends are as we are of their real life friends, etc. To me it is simply an extension of the rules I grew up with like we weren't allowed to go play at friend's houses if my mom didn't know their parents or if their parents weren't home, and sleepovers were only allowed at homes of kids whose parents my parents trusted.

  11. I think I wouldnt have chat programs on their computer,and that the kids could go on the internet in the common living area of the house so I could keep an eye on their body language. Unless I felt something dodgy was going on, I'd leave them to it.

  12. I agree with you. I'm against censorship of any kind -- internet, books, movies, music. I was in middle school when we first became connected to the internet and it was the one area that I knew more about than my mom. Did I go into chat rooms of course, who didnt way back then. But I also knew not to give my address out or any of that sort of information. I do think it needs to be talked about but kids needs to learn and there needs to be a trust between children and parents. Great post!

  13. Yes... I am a VERY bad parent!
    I let him surf at his own peril...

  14. Wow. I didn't think there would be regular blog readers who are so paranoid about the internet.

    Some of your readers need to watch fewer Fox News special reports.

  15. i'll totally monitor the crap out of my kids. i like the playground analogy - it's not like i won't let my kids go to a playground, but i won't just drop them off and let them play unsupervised, just because i've said "no talking to strangers!" before they hopped out of the car. i think it's less about not trusting your kids and more about not trusting the people they'll be interacting with, because you can just about guarantee that there are Very Bad People trying their best to interact with kids, just like there will always be creepy men lurking around playgrounds. except now they can do it from the privacy of their own homes, without any adults being able to see them lurk. HELL yeah i'm monitoring my kids :-P

  16. We've always been open and talked with our teenage daughter. I sometimes randomly checked what she did and found that she had been sending pix to boys (she knew) in her bra only...something I hadn't thought of when having the internet talk. Monitoring let us know that we needed another talk to nip it in the bud.

  17. You see, I grew up with the world's most permissive mother. I rode the subway alone at eight, never had a curfew, had my own credit card and used the internet completely unmonitored, did everything completely unmonitored. I turned out (relatively) fine. There are things that my mum did, or rather didn't do, that I would balk at with my own (nonexistent) children. Yet---and I'm probably an anomaly---I never abused my privileges. I had a lot of friends who would have if they were given free reign as I was. I didn't stumble home the next day at noon, I never charged up the credit card nor did I do anything really inappropriate with the Internet. I certainly wasn't an angel but I managed to be more independent and self sufficient than my closely monitored peers.

    I honestly believe that it depends on the child. I'm creeped out by Disney child monitoring mobile phones and the tracking software. I've mostly been in the camp "if you think that your kids would do inappropriate things with the phone/internet, etc. then why let them have it?" I'm still idealistic enough to feel that I would trust my children to lead their own lives with proper guidance. With all of that said, I don't see a problem with checking in every once in a while. Close, constant monitoring? Nope.

  18. It has to be determined based on the child, but I will monitor mine. Until what age, I don't know. Until I can see that they consistently make good choices. I mean, I myself have accidently typed in the wrong web address and ended up on a porn site. So, how hard would that be for either of my kids to do? There are far too many sexual predators out there using the internet for me to not monitor the activity. I won't be hanging over their shoulder, but I will know how they are spending their time.

  19. Our daughter is four, so we aren't really dealing with this yet. I'm hesitant to lay out any "rules" now because I know things we likely change dramatically before she has any real interest in online interactions.

    I DO think we would need to have the ability to access to her online stuff, even if we weren't following every keystroke.

    I expect this will go both ways, in some respects, as I fully anticipate a time when she is more aware of what I'm doing with my blog and has requests about her own privacy.

    I'm also interested in this issue from an educator's standpoint. There are so many great ways teachers and schools could utilize the online community, and yet many of them are just plain terrified to do so. Or the parents are terrified. Or someone has a great and innovative way to use the internet, but isn't allowed because of blocked sites. Lots of blogs, wikis, and networking type sites are blocked by district servers.

    I feel like we're just dragging our feet with the internet in education - let's go ahead and find the best ways to use it, before the kids are doing all the authentic community building and learning subversively because we haven't allowed it.

  20. Our first line of defense is a filter that does not allow pornographic pages to be loaded, though really that's not been an issue. We have been talking about software that monitors everywhere the kids go on the web, but we haven't implemented it. If we decide to, we would tell the kids it's there. I'm not looking to ambush them or get them in trouble, so it's only fair to tell them if and when we have the ability to see exactly what they are doing.

    My 14-year-old has a blog that she doesn't know I'm aware of, as well as a blog that she co-authors with 3 others, that she also doesn't know I know about. I only know about them because we keep the kids' computer in the dining room, where I can see it from the kitchen and living room, so I can see what they are doing and she doesn't bother to close her windows, so whatever she was doing before she walks away is always still up on the screen. Yes, I have looked at the blogs, though I would never reprimand her for anything she writes there. She deserves to be able to say what she wants to her friends, so as long as I don't see anything risky going on (commenters asking for too much info, etc.), I will continue to silently monitor. I do not get upset over any bad language, etc., because that is part of being a teenager, and from what I see, I was WAY worse. Also, blogs are public unless made private, which she hasn't done to hers, so I don't feel too bad about reading them. That's a risk she takes by putting it out there, and like I've found out myself, it can bite you in the ass. :)

    She also is on Facebook, and I have told her that she MAY NOT accept anyone as a friend that she does not already know in real life. Her school friends all use Facebook as a social tool, so they're not constantly on the phone, which is nice. Though they are constantly on Facebook.

    Overall, yes I monitor her blogs for her protection, but I don't monitor her Facebook activity. I trust her to abide by the no friends you don't already know rule, and I have made sure she understands the risks that are out there. I understand that she is a different person with her friends than she is with me, and I respect that distinction, so she does not get reprimanded for the language or content of any portion of her online discussions with her friends that I may happen to see or her blog posts. When she is away from home, I always know where she is and who she is with, and unless I wanted to discretely follow her everywhere (which I don't have the time or the inclination to do), there is not much more a parent can do. You make them aware of the risks, protect them where you can, but otherwise you just have to cross your fingers and toss them out there.

  21. First, wow Lauchlin...judge much? It's not about the Fox news report, it's about common sense.

    Second, I think you are comparing monitoring software to spying. Just because you use software to find out what sites your kid is visiting, and who he/she is talking to, doesn't mean that you watching every keystroke. I think of it(as someone already mentioned) as getting to know your kids' friends, and their parents. I wouldn't read my child's online journal (without permission), but hell yes, I would monitor their myspace or facebook page.

    FWIW, my kids are too young to even use the computer by themselves, but that doesn't mean the discussion isn't already happening.

  22. I don't know--I don't have kids yet. I can say all sorts of things that I would do, but I won't truly know until I meet my kids and see how they are growing up. I can see having it installed as a backup plan--your kid is suddenly acting weird and doesn't want to talk to you and suddenly doesn't go near the computer--has she been anywhere online that could have made her so freaked out? Does she need to talk about something she saw but is embarrassed and doesn't know how to bring it up? That kind of thing. I don't believe that I would be the kind of parent who would install it and then go through every page looking for a reason to not trust my kid. People get so down on this software because "it's an invasion of privacy" etc. But sometimes respecting your kids' privacy can be the wrong thing to do. Sometimes kids need a parent to butt in and say "I know you wanted to keep this private but I know about it and I think we should talk about it." But, like I said, I don't have kids yet so who knows what kind of parent I will actually be. :)

  23. I don't believe in snooping, but I think internet usage is more dangerous from when we were kids. We had aol and it was slow. There wasn't facebook and myspace. I can't really say what I am/or not going to do when my kids are teenagers. But, I think it's important to be involved in what is going on in their daily lives, and watch what they are involved in, who they are friends with...

    My parents were very protective, and I will be too. But, it's important to let your kids live their lives.

    Has anyone been on myspace? It is scary even at my age. It is a trojan horse nightmare...even with the correct security software!

    Facebook has better privacy settings...Implement the highest privacy settings, and only befriend people you REALLY know. Make your profile non-searchable. That way you keep real friends in, and fake ones out.

  24. I think that the easiest way to handle this is no private internet access. Have the computers with open internet access, but have them in shared areas.

    I know that when I was younger I had contact with all kinds of creeps online, and it was all because of private access to a computer. That can just escalate as technology escalates. Those people still find me, through my blog, through video games - I just know how to get rid of them now.

    I'm all for openness, so I think that would be the way I would go about it, along with discussing why things like privacy settings on facebook are a good thing.

    I think that there is a huge learning curve that is often only understood when kids get into uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations. Kids want to connect and find community just like adults do, it's just separating the good from the bad that's hard.

  25. It's not a matter of mistrusting your children - It's a matter of protecting them. That's a parent's job.

    We will discuss the dangers online just like the dangers in the "real world". Our computer will be in an open area of the house where I will feel free to walk by at anytime and ask "What'cha up to?" I find that responsible, not invasive. Will a child/teen feel differently? Probably. But it's a parent's job.

  26. I've read a handful of the comments and I'll add mine---my kids have pretty open access to the internet. They have iPhones which have internet as well. I have teenagers and we've been through all the rules of the internet over and over. I'll check their history every so often but there's been no trouble.

    The computer is in their den and they have no problem with me stopping by and checking out what they are doing. My oldest (college age) has her own laptop bought with her own money. I consider her basically an adult and do not monitor her although we still discuss what you should and should not do or post on the internet (ie that teachers, prospective employers, your grandparents can see that stuff).

    I guess I'm in the minority.

  27. I wanted to pipe on this one as I have some pretty decent professional knowledge dealing with online predators and the grooming of children for abuse. I personally come from the school of thought that it is not a child's responsibility to prevent their own victimization. I would encourage folks to look at the site, which is developed by NCMEC, and view their information about keeping kids safe online.

    Kids are just kids. They are not grown ups and literally do not have the same mental capacity for common sense as folks over the age of majority. There are plenty of people out there willing to pose as other kids, to manipulate and draw trust from children. I personally believe that is too much responsibility to put on a child to resist this kind of predator.

    My kids are still young, but I know that I will be monitoring their online life just as closely as their personal lives. I disagree with the idea that it is like reading their diaries. Writing in a diary has far less reaching ramifications than publishing information online.

  28. I don't have kids, but I already know that I would be all over monitoring online activity. I wouldn't have a problem with it and I also think safety first, not privacy.
    I can honestly see how a 13 or 14 or 15 year old girl might be flattered by the advances of an older man who turns out to be some pedophile and I wouldn't give a rat's ass about her privacy if I can prevent her from having a traumatic experience.

  29. I'm a bit of a Nancy Drew anyway, so I think I'll be quite the net monitor if I ever get around to having kids.

    Besides, I think kid brains aren't quite in need of all that tech input anyway. I'm not a big fan of video games and tv's and computers in kids' rooms. Maybe it was growing up having to use the house phone and share with two younger sisters... privacy was only a dream.

  30. I've been thinking about how to put into words what I believe on this subject, and I think Misty has said it the best so far - it is not a child's responsibility to prevent their own victimization.

    and I agree that it's not about trust, its about protection. Now if you were snooping around their room and reading their diary, that's about trust.

  31. I think that as with all monitoring, it can be done in the sneaky/trust-breaking way or it can be done in the upfront/protection way. If you put out a notebook and said to your child, "Anything you write in here, I will read, okay?"---then it wouldn't destroy your trusting relationship if you read it. But if you gave them a notebook and said, "Anything you write in here is private, and I absolutely will not read it," then it WOULD destroy a trusting relationship.

    Same with internet monitoring. Sure, if you set your kid up, secretly spying on what he/she is doing, that's a trust issue. But if you say, "We have parental controls on this computer to help keep you safe; it's a tricky, difficult world and we need to know you're safe, so we'll be looking to make sure everything's still okay and you're not getting tricked by ads or whatever," I don't see how that would be a violation.

    But I actually would also support the sneaky software. I know, I know, but I sit at a computer next to my fourth grader, who is NOT yet trying to sneak anything, and I hear him say, "OH MAN!! It says I just won a Wii!!!" and "This says someone wants to meet me; can I click 'hi'?" and "This says I need to tell them my password; do you remember what it is?"---and so, um, kids are really, really oblivious to the world, EVEN WHEN we do our best to teach him (I've talked to him many times about all three of those tricks), and I'm in favor of anything that protects them, even if it's something that would be very, very intrusive if we did the same thing to an adult (like a spouse). They're NOT adults. They're little sweetheart-dumbheads who still need their hands held when they cross the street or they'll be like, "Ooo, a nickel!" and get hit by a car.

  32. I have a 14 year old son who spends a lot of time on the web. I read his emails, I won't allow a facebook or myspace page and the computer is subject to being scanned at any time. I don't read his mail all the time, but he is aware that I have his passwords and I do check it.

  33. I'd rather just block certain content... like chat rooms. It's such a touchy subject because I get the safety issue, but after a certain age (maybe 14 or 15) I wouldn't dare read their email. They're old enough at that point to be safe...and deserve some privacy.

  34. I'm not into the idea of reading every email or MSN conversation, because I think it creates a rebellious teen when the parents are overdoing it (but this depends on the age of the kid, of course). BUT... I am definitely only allowing my future children/young teens to have access to a computer in a high-traffic room in our house, with the monitor not hidden. And they won't be allowed to sit constantly at the computer.

    I'm not really going to encourage the Internet, other than for academic purposes and then as they get older and they want to experience it, I'll ensure I've spent time teaching them about it. My ten-year-old brother has no interest in the Internet, except for when he wants to "Google something" as he says. He's not into emailing or going online socially, even though some of his friends already are. So we don't formally discourage him, but we just don't encourage him either.

    I love what Swistle said -- to inform them that anything they do can be monitored at any time, but then don't really be sneaky. You don't want to create mistrust, but you DO need to protect children and teens because they do make some really poor choices.

    When we first got the Internet at my house, I was fifteen. And one of my favourite things to do was go on this Buffy The Vampire Slayer message board, and I met a bunch of people on there that I actually STILL talk to online (8 years later!!!). I was fortunate that who I met were GOOD people, and that I wasn't dumb (I didn't give out personal info AT ALL until I knew them for quite some time). But still when I think back on it, I'm not sure I'd want my own kids doing the same unless I was 100% sure they were savvy enough not to make mistakes. I could have easily been meeting the wrong type of people on there, my parents weren't with me when I stayed up late messaging with these folks, who I did eventually have on MSN too (they were in their 20s when I was 15).

    As I said, I'm fortunate that they were good people, and we did actually become good online friends (all these years!)... but man, it really could have gone badly if I'd been stupid online, since I really didn't have the monitoring by my parents.

    I think talking a lot about it at home is a good idea, but then also not allowing your children to be online in the privacy of their bedrooms until they are older teens; important to keep things out in the open so there is less chance of them sneaking around online.

  35. I didn't read every comment, so it has probably been said... but the other issue here isn't just privacy, but also online bullying. It's a huge thing right now, and I think sometimes monitoring your child could also help you see this bullying that your child MIGHT be the victim of. Your child might be too scared to tell you about the incidents that are occuring online, and might be silently getting very emotionally damaged. So I think often for even just seeing "What are others SAYING to my child?", I think it's important to be very aware of their online activity.

  36. Wowsa! Pretty intense subject here. I'm in agreement with those that said monitoring online activity is not the same as spying on your child.

    I'd also aim to guess that the parents of the teenage girl that killed herself in her room after being victimized by the parent of another teenager wished that they had monitored her online activities a little closer than they did.

  37. They're NOT adults. They're little sweetheart-dumbheads who still need their hands held when they cross the street or they'll be like, "Ooo, a nickel!" and get hit by a car.


    Exactly!! Once again, Swistle says what I'm thinking.

  38. Thanks, put it much better than my monitoring vs. spying comparison.

    Added bonus for the "sweetheart-dumbhead" bit. Love it!

  39. I do not agree that children have a need for privacy, especially when it comes to the internet. When we support them to be private and keep things to themselves, then we are allowing them to with hold information/communication from us that may be potentially harmful. If you want your child to have privacy, provide them with a private, safe area within your home where they can go to be by themselves.

    The internet is a dangerous place and there is a world of difference between an adult meeting other adults online (who can use their judgment) versus children meeting people online. Children are unable to discern who may or may not be safe adults/situations online. If we want our children to grow and expand and learn social skills, they must be exposed to REAL LIVE HUMANS, not over the internet to only God knows who.

    Haven't we heard one too many times of children/teens meeting strangers from online and then having horrendous things happen to them? Parents must be responsible, actively involved in online activities their children partake in. There is no other option, otherwise you face potential unfortunate situations.

  40. My kids don't go to the home of someone I've never met. They don't walk to school alone. Their computer is in a family space and has parental controls. Yes, my kids are still young, but until they are actually adults, I'll treat them like children, worthy of my protection. When they know you're monitoring them, it's not spying.

  41. ICQ! I'd forgotten all about that! :)

    As to monitoring activity... I wouldn't want to read my kids emails (I don't think) or anything like that, but I think something to block inappropriate content or check which websites they've been visiting would be a good idea up to a certain age. Because let's face it... as soon as I had internet access on my own computer, I started searching for porn--and learning how to clear the browser history and cache so nobody would know that I'd been looking at it should they check my computer. Not like they ever did, but I covered my tracks religiously, just in case.

    Sexual curiosity is a natural part of maturing, sure, but kids are starting to become sexually active at younger and younger ages, I'd worry that my 10 year old was finding hardcore porn. I'd rather have them sneaking looks at their father's Playboys like I did. At least that's, like, PG rated porn. :)

    I agree with everyone above who talks about teaching AND monitoring. Not invading privacy, just keeping an eye out for any poor decisions or dangerous behavior.

    And I met my first boyfriend online BEFORE there was an internet. I am *that* much of a dork.

  42. I was nine when I entered my first chat room, twelve when my mom wised up to the fact that I was seeing things I probably shouldn't, and eighteen when my daughter was born. Having been on both sides of this issue fairly recently, I have to say I'm a bit torn. My daughter's only two, so I have a while to figure out how I'm going to approach this parenting issue and the only resounding thought I have in mind is, "do whatever it takes."

    Keep her safe, above all else. Make her happy, as much as I can. Unlike my mom, the internet ISN'T the vast unknown and while I didn't get into serious trouble, I lost some innocence earlier than I needed to. Curiosity is a powerful motivator.

    I want to be forthright with my kids, not sneaky about my actions. There's really no reason to sneak around (which is how I view undisclosed "spying" software); we're doing, as parents, whatever it takes.

    That being said, I found a work-around for every parental control my mom tried to impose on my technology. 8^) Open and honest communication seems to be the only effective way to get good results without resentment.

  43. You know, I haven't thought much on this subject. My inclination is to talk early and frequently about the dangers of internet predators or giving out personal information on the web, but then also butt out.

    but we have a long way to go until that stage, thank goodness.

  44. Okay, after reading all the posts I have to add this: that when I'm thinking of my child's online usage, I'm thinking of really innocent stuff like teen sites. MySpace is a whole 'nother deal. I don't think I'd condone using it, in fact.

    So yea, I believe in knowing where they're surfing to, I guess, but not daily or in-depth monitoring, which is the tone I got based on the review of the software.

  45. Thanks for the post! We included one of your comments in our blog about keeping kids safe online :)