Curiosity and Google

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Last night we had a "situation" occur with my 10 year old son that, unfortunately is becoming all too familiar for even the most well-intentioned parents. Before bedtime I let him check his email on my computer. He communicates with our family back east this way and I've seen it improve his writing skills dramatically. That being said, curiosity got the best of him and he "googled" something I don't even want to repeat here. Thankfully I came to the computer a little later and saw the subject matter minimized at the bottom of the screen. What showed up on the screen was pretty harmless but the fact he sought this out at all was a huge wake up call to me. I remember reading a chapter in a book about raising boys that said: 'it's not a matter of IF your son will be exposed to pornography but WHEN'. It seems 10 is the new 14. Because I've had to address this issue with my boys on more than one occasion, I'm hoping a blog post about it will help spread the word.

Ever since we began allowing our kids to have any access to the Internet, it has been monitored closely by a software filtering program or simply having the computer in a public area of our house. In spite of these attempts at protection, the boys have still been exposed to umm..let's call it "excess exposure". I summoned my son to my desk and inquired about his search. The look on his face said it all. As I gently interrogated about why he felt the need to do it, he told me that, when he was at a neighbor's, this boy had entered the same phrase and he was just curious what actually showed up because he didn't get to see it. So, you see, it's clearly the other boy's fault. (just kidding!)

The fact that it's in our homes is a sad reality of our ever progressive sexual culture. As if this isn't bad enough, it's in everyone else's homes too. Usually when I ask other parents if they have filters on their computers, the answer is 'no' or 'I really need to do that' or 'I haven't even thought about that.' Please don't wait. It doesn't matter if your kids are 2 or 12, they are naturally curious and plenty of websites are happy to oblige their curiosity.

There are numerous filtering software programs out there which I'm sure you can review on Amazon but here are a couple we have purchased over the last few years. clearly the best one we have used. You set up an account for your child and enter the sites you permit access to. They aren't able to move from there to another site that isn't pre-approved by you. Also, you have the ability to decide the amount of time they can spend on the Internet per day. Once their time has expired, the computer automatically logs them off. This was the first one we used but found that it didn't block every unsavory site. If a word is used in the web address that doesn't fit their definition of pornographic content, the user can access it. Overall a good program though.

A good read about this subject with more info on social networking sites, texting and cell phones is Logged On and Tuned Out by Vicky Courtney .

I am not naive enough to believe that my actions will result in leaving my kids' innocence completely intact but it certainly can't hurt.