Thank you for the wonderful advice and encouragement y'all! There's been some serious discussion going on in our household lately, about responsible internet use. Some points that were brought up:
* The internet is FREE, as in not controlled by a corporation, government or individual. (ideally!) It is controlled by internet users, and that's US. We have a responsibility to create a safe virtual world.
* There are many people who are irresponsible, and they are allowed to use the internet too! So we have to take steps to keep ourselves and our families safe. That's why responsible parents use Parental Controls to block some of the crappy content on our computer at home.
* We learned how to use the "Snipping Tool" (in accessories: I copied it to the desktop) to take a screen shot, and discussed ways of reporting sites and users.
* We talked about how a friend of a friend's daughter was in a chat room and said to her Mom, "Something strange here." Her mom called the mom of the cousin she was chatting with, and the moms pretended to be the girls. They agreed to meet another "girl" they were chatting with, called the police, and a known sex offender was arrested at the scene. What a good thing that girl had her mom right there, and had the intuition to feel that something was wrong!
* We discussed how people who spend too much time in computer games, internet, and TV have lower school grades. We talked about how it can be addictive, and how watching violence and hate desensitises us and makes us want more. It also encourages owners of those sites to produce more.
* We discussed the difference between internet friends and "Real" friends. "How many FRIENDS do I have, guys?" got answers from hundreds, to thirty, to five.
* I said that I could, and would, check their internet use history.
So far so good, I think. I am not overly worried about occasional exposure to crap online, but more about habitual searching for a thrill. One great way to break a habit is to cut off availability, as one commenter said. If I find any boy playing the fool online, their computer privileges will be revoked. I want them to know what's out there, as Chutney Garden pointed out, so they aren't completely overwhelmed when they are exposed.
And stuff comes up that you're not even looking for! I remember one day in Chicklands, the kids were all crowded round the computer... Mikey, Issa, and my three, and they were youtubing and cracking up at all the funny stuff. Suddenly they got quiet, and when I looked over it was animated skeletons in every sexy position imaginable! I just switched it off and shooed them outside, but I should have reported it to youtube. I didn't think! The "stick man" and "lego" stuff can also be violent and isn't easily picked up by filter & control programs.
As Lou pointed out, YES that are great kids, and they want to do the right thing. Hopefully that desire to do the right thing will be stronger than the lure of exciting concepts like Phone Pranks! Laying down the law, making it clear what is acceptable, is a good thing for boys.
Green Girl, see if you can chase down your hubby's plan for the future. We need info from those in the know!
Hi Hayley! Any suggestions as resident teen? SteffieBeans, are you out there? Megan? I know you guys know chat rooms way better than I ever could, have you encountered any weirdness? What suggestions would you give a parent of kids younger than yourselves, to keep them safe and prevent naughtiness on the computer? I would really appreciate your input.
I know I've forgotten some stuff, but I have a feeling this conversation is going to continue for a while so anything I've left out, and your observations, can go into the next post. Keep those comments rolling!