Internet for Children?

Just what is our responsibility when it comes to teaching our kids how to be safe on the internet? If we use the internet in our homes, or even when we visit the local library, we can expect our children to use it when they move out. How much will they know about internet safety, ethics, and discernment (when it comes to figuring out which sources are trustworthy)? If we wait until they are adults and allow them to figure it out for themselves (as many of us did), it will be much easier for them to stray or make mistakes. Should we just teach them diligently about God and make sure they know right from wrong, and leave the rest to them? Or should we take deliberate steps to prepare our children for independence in cyberspace? I have a few ideas of my own, but I would like to collect some of yours!

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7 responses to “Internet for Children?

  1. I can tell you what we did and how I think we missed one thing:
    We never had Internet in our home. Our computer was just a troublesome, space-hogging, expensive typewriter. We took floppies to the library to send things, then flash drives.
    Our children never played on the computer, unless they were ill or maybe if it had rained for several days. We had one game. And it was juvenile, so they did not stay interested in it.
    There is a book called “Failure to Connect” that speaks of the dangers of computers to the eyes, general health, and learning skills, when introduced in the grade school years.
    The day did come when our children had to learn to type. That was the summer before each one’s seventh grade. They learned to type on a clunker typewriter. We wanted them to learn typing, first, and appreciation for how it used to be. Well, we also waited that long because we wanted them to learn good handwriting and spelling first. During junior high, they spent hours of fun, learning good typing skills, including how to format a business letter, etc.
    In High School, they typed their English lessons on the computer every week. That was part of their English assignment and the only time they used the computer except when they issued statements for their customers of their mowing business. And, OH, were they appreciative!! 🙂
    They went to college and shocked us all by nearly the co-teaching their required freshman computer class. Classmates were crashing computers, the professor was throwing his hands up in despair, and our kids were helping out, often not having time to finish the assignments, themselves, but always earning an A+ in that class. Every child. They never had any instructions on the computer, just how to type. They all knew something else, though, that their classmates mostly did not know–how to learn. They could page through that huge computer textbook and understand because we had opened their understanding to the depth that their computer-world predecessors had had theirs opened, when the world was reality, before the world was just a screen.
    These kids have led their industry accounting colleagues into the computer age, invented Yahtzee and Boggle games in EXCEL, USING DOS(!), etc. One has designed a knitting and crocheting program for his wife to publish her handiwork patterns. One recently got a $10,000 raise for knowing what to do with a totally messed up accounting system that was only partially on computer. One is the go-to guy in his computer department and he hasn’t graduated yet. Cute guy with all the answers gets lots of cakes and cookies from aging and THANKFUL secretary types. One has nearly mastered PhotoShop.
    In other words, they survived in spite of, or because of, our strictness. They are minor stars in their own worlds and never skipped a beat.
    We always had our kids locked out of our computer. They had to get us to enter the password every time they even got up for too long. No problem for us. And our computer always has and always will be in a totally public place in our house where anyone can see what the user is doing.
    We still do not have Internet on the desk-top because all our sensitive files are on it. It was cheaper to buy a laptop for Internet uses, than to hire all the protection devices.
    Okay, now, what we missed, I think: They had Game-Boys. They could play with them at their discretion, given certain prerequisites like homework and chores being done, etc. We took them away many times for infractions like using them under the covers after bedtime, etc. What I think was wrong with that is that we did not limit it enough, caution them enough. We should have had set times for use or something, because I see them, now, spending too much time with games. Not bad, but too much. It was a true problem for one, but he overcame it magnificently, we think, so we are breathing a tentative sigh of relief, but we do realize that teaching was lacking. So there you have it.
    Sorry this was so long. You can abreviate it if you need. 🙂 I waited for someone else to answer. Ha.

  2. Perfectly okay. Did you teach them to research using the internet, or did they learn that in college?
    So far, my son does spelling, some math, and typing on the computer, but he doesn’t use it for games. I’m just thinking about whether I should begin giving him deliberate, intentional lessons on the dangers of using the internet, or just teach him right from wrong and let him go from there. I know some homeschooled teenagers who don’t use the internet at all unless their parents are standing over their shoulders. I wonder when would be a good time to start trusting them? Will they run into trouble in college? Not because I think they can’t learn, but because of the many pitfalls to moral judgment. What will they be like as adults, and will the results be their parents’ responsibility?
    As far as video games go, when he finds a game he likes, he will play it for hours until he beats it, and then he takes a break for months!

  3. Several Christian magazines have said that at no time should anyone ever trust anyone on the Internet. All should be open at all times, clearly visible to all. In Christian colleges, computer labs have walls that are half window, so anyone can see what you are doing. In our local libraries, all computers are arranged so that anyone can see, and especially the librarians can see what everyone is doing.
    It’s like the fence around the Grand Canyone, to keep people from falling. One missed step can mean death.

    • I understand what you are saying. But at some point, someone is going to be home alone and need to research something. I am just thinking about my son in advance of him becoming a bachelor who may live by himself or someone who needs to use the internet when no one is home or standing behind him at work. I am just looking for specific issues that parents may need to address with their teens before they become adults. I want my son to know the pitfalls and to have been instructed how to behave so that he may trust himself as I trust myself. I blog and respond to posts throughout the day, and while I don’t shut myself into a room somewhere, my husband is a work most of the day, and he doesn’t hover over me when he comes home. I think we need to give some actual thought to this issue instead of maintaining a principle that will not always be practical. Some of these things include, but are not limited to: how much personal information, if any, should be provided online and to whom, buying things online, opening personal accounts of any kind, pornography and erotic literature, spiritualism and neopaganism, and finding reliable sources while researching. One of the most important worries is reading opinions that are close to the truth but slightly off. These can be especially dangerous to a well-meaning Christian.

  4. Again, since I don’t have kids or anything, all I have is my own childhood experience. My mom didn’t get me a computer until I was 14, but she got me a Gameboy and a Playstation. Which is why I’m a total gaming nerd, haha. But that aside, I was taught a few things by my mom and my teachers (which she made sure I went to a good pre-kindergarten and a private Lutheran school for K-8) that a lot of kids in public school didn’t, namely how to research online. Google can be a pain, and you have to know what you’re looking for.

    Even worse, EBSCO and other scholar-type databases are hard to pour through, too, and we were taught how to do that pretty early on. We were taught how to type in sixth grade — which is why I can touch type really, really fast.

    But I would put emphasis on how to research, how to teach your son to think and learn for himself instead of just take what he’s learned and then not bother with anything. I’ve seen a lot of kids that do that, and they really don’t gain anything out of school. I think I mentioned this once, but I really learned how to teach myself when I was homeschooled for the last two years of high school. It was a distance program, so I had no teacher — I read the book, answered the questions, was trusted to be honest (which I was, though I admit at times I wanted to cheat because it was so painful on my brain). That really gave me the note-taking abilities for college. It’s why I have all As right now and why I’m confident in my learning abilities. Give your son that type of self-help ability and he should do great in college.

    But… that really isn’t answering your question about the internet. To be honest, while you can, limit the time on the internet. I will say that the internet makes it harder to focus, and if you teach your son to study outside of the internet while he’s younger, it’ll be easier for him later (theoretically).

    As for the part about God, well. I think you’re going to have to trust him to know what’s best for his spiritual walk. For now, influence him, teach him, help him come to his own conclusions about Christ and what He means in his life.

    Sorry for the long-winded answer! Haha.

  5. That’s okay! I did ask for everyone’s advice, and that’s kind of hard to give in a sentence or two. 🙂
    It’s good to know your experiences, as a kid in school and homeschooled. I didn’t learn researching skills until I went to college. That’s something I really want to focus on, once he begins doing papers (which will be a while yet, I imagine). Right now, the only things he does online are Spelling City and some math games. For a while, he went on a kick wanting to find all of the star coins in the New Super Mario Brothers game for Wii. Back then though, he couldn’t type or spell, so I had to do everything. He can do those things a little now, but it will be a very long time before I trust him online without me looking at the screen the whole time. I’ve seen things on YouTube that were set up like kids’ shows (Caillou), but after a couple of seconds the graphics turned nasty. But the audio still sounded like Caillou, so a parent listening from the other room wouldn’t know the difference. I’m pretty sure someone did it on purpose. Sick, huh?

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