I’ve been working with computers since I was a small child. My first computer was a TRS 80 Model 3. It was a present for my 8th birthday. When I think back to that computer I remember fondly how much I loved working on it. I gave my computer a name, Arnold. Don’t ask me why, but that was his name. He had 16kb of RAM and no disk drive. At that time the disk drives where large floppy disks. My machine transferred data via cassette tapes. It’s funny to think back to how advance that was at the time. Oh how technology has changed.
Many, many, years later I started ETTE and got married, had kids, and now find myself with children 9 and 6 years old that love technology like me. My kids are far more proficient in using the computer, iPhones, and iPads than I was at their ages. It amazes me that they can surf the web, stream music, play games I struggle with, and know how to text. Although I am fully supportive of their interest in technology it also raises several questions about their online safety, screen time, and exposure to inappropriate content.
As an IT professional, I’m used to working with adults at established businesses where certain aspects of technology controls are relatively easy to define. Reconciling the differences between professional IT service delivery and supporting my children is at times difficult. I believe that adult end users should be given certain lee ways and I encourage clients to have reasonable controls in place but also have a certain level of trust with their employees. When it come to my kids, I want to give them room to explore and learn about technology and the Internet, but I also have to always be diligent to the fact that they are children.
I do my best to review the apps and websites my kids use. It’s much easier to restrict access on the phones and tablets since they aren’t able to authenticate for app installs. On the computer, it’s a bit more challenging. My oldest child actually has to use Moodle for a fair amount of homework and often needs to use Youtube. I find this a bit more difficult to filter.
One of the good things about monitoring YouTube is that since she always browses as me, I can see the history of videos she has looked at. At this point, it’s been all relevant school related work and a few music videos. I find that implementing the basic parental restrictions in the OS and the browser have so far proven to be effective when combined with reviewing and talking about the different things online.
I don’t want to find myself having to completely block everything and only allow a pre-approved whitelist. I think that would foster a sense of dis-trust and that is the last thing I want to do. While I love technology and what it allows us to do, I feel that when it comes to my children, it’s a combination of technical protections and educating them about the good and bad aspects of technology.
A funny example of the benefits of having an open and trusting relationship with my children, is that one day both my kids came to me and told me that they really didn’t like this certain music video because of the “bad” clothes the dancers were wearing. The kids knew what they saw was not appropriate for them and let me know. We discussed how important it is for them to let me know if they see things that aren’t for kids. I feel this is a good example of them trusting me and feeling open enough to share these types of things with me. It’s my hope that kind of behavior continues into the teenage years and beyond. If not there are more technical solutions I can always implement 🙂