In addition to being hot as all getout in the DC area, June is also Internet Safety Month. As a tech lawyer, I’m well aware of the dangers that the Internet presents to children and teens when they’re given unsupervised access. And those dangers are truly terrifying. My children are ages 5 (almost 6), 4 and 2 years old – and lucky for me, they’re still at an age where their time on the Internet is extremely limited. We went through a stint where the preschooler and the kindergartener wanted to use my laptop every chance they got to watch music videos or play games on Starfall. We also visited PBS Kids often. I liked Starfall and PBS Kids because they could click through themselves and the likelihood of them being led astray by flashing ads or attractive links was low.
YouTube was a whole ‘nother story. I actually bookmarked 2 of their favorite videos so that they could click on them easily. The problem is that, well, YouTube is a huge problem. So we shut that down pretty quickly.
We actually brought up my old PC from the basement and hooked it up for the kids, so that they could have “their own” computer. They liked clicking around, and would quickly would get distracted by a banner or smiley face ad. And we know those are all bad news.
It didn’t take Chatterbox too long to find Google. We have the Google toolbar loaded. I mean how can anyone survive without access to Google at their fingertips 24/7? So she quickly figured out that she could type in “Hannah Montana” or “Barbie” and come up with a bevy of search results – not all of them courtesy of Disney or Mattel. I had to make sure to keep a close eye on her computer time and then not too long after – by the grace of God – the computer died.
So we’ve been on an Internet hiatus when it comes to the kids. And I don’t mind one bit. After attending the Cox Summit on Teen Internet Safety, I was bombarded with enough stats and horror stories to not want to let my kids even think about the Internet. And so, for now, the Webkinz that I bought on sale last year will remain safely wrapped up on the coat closet shelf.
I know one day I’m going to have to bite the bullet and face the fact that my kids are online. But I’m in no hurry. For now I’m busy enough with shoelace-tying lessons and breaking up arguments over who gets the cherry Popsicle to have to worry about cyberbullying, online child predators, and sexting. And I’m cherishing every moment.
A Yahoo Motherboard-inspired post.