Sunday, March 11, 2007

Prodigal Offspring and Computers

What evil things those computers have become! Our kids started out on computers when the youngest one was only two years old. Seemed like such a good thing at first. The kid's computer didn't have Internet access then, so it was no big deal to let them play their educational games with minimal adult supervision. Everything was wonderful.

As they grew and school started demanding more keyboard time, we got each kid their own computer. At first still no Internet in their rooms, but that was OK. They mostly just used it for basic word processing.

Then we upgraded things. The house went broadband and network. Soon everyone's computer could access the Internet. At first, still not a problem. Basic child protection software did the trick. Yeah, they periodically trashed the machines with their experimentation, but no problem. It was easy to restore the initial setup. I was proud that they were learning to write code and were not afraid of the electronic beastie. For the most part, they behaved.

Ah, but then they became adolescents. You know, that evil transitional phase between the innocence of childhood and alleged wisdom of adulthood. They learned evil tricks from fiendish friends whose parents were not nearly as vigilant as I. And they started listening to that awful racket called Hip Hop, and Gangsta Rap....rubbish! They spiraled into the world of MySpace and other child-perverting sites.

Battle now joined. The kids started trying to hack their way around protections. Usually I could catch them, me being an IT consultant when I'm not writing books or training soldiers. I'm sure not all parents are as gifted, given discussions I've had with other parents. It is a constant fight. Our kids we used to be able to trust have become instant gratification-seeking Internet sneaks.

Recently the battle moved to proxies...those web addresses that let kids get around software designed to block their favorite illicit web sites. I knew about proxies. After all, it is one of my lines of work to know such things. I just didn't know that they knew about them...yet. I always knew that someday, they would discover how easy it is to get around the safeguards. I can close off the proxies, but not fast enough. There are literally thousands of proxy sites.

So now only the oldest kid has Internet access in his room...barely. He's been warned and he's one violation away from losing his computer. The two girls have already lost computer in their rooms. Surprisingly they were far more out of control than the boy. They now get to share one in my office where I can watch. Even then, they try to sneak past the guard. Even knowing that their every move is monitored they try. Isn't that a symptom of retardation? If one is incapable of learning that touching the hot stove results in burns, isn't there something wrong. My otherwise very intelligent kids are absolute idiots when it comes to the Internet. Dad is always watching and dad knows more than other dads...or more than you and your teenage co-conspirators. So why keep pushing?

Lesson for all parents of computing age kids...don't let them have Internet access unless you are sitting right there with them. Fact is, you can't block everything with software or hardware. There is always a way around. Technology can't replace vigilant parenting. If you don't want to make the effort, then don't have a computer that your kids can use to access the Internet.

Unfortunately, like treats and sweets, someone else will someday give your child freedom to roam the Internet. Sometimes it is the school, sometimes a friend, but eventually they run amok.

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