Kids and the wild, wild internet?

Written on December 28, 2009 at 11:22 pm
Filed under: Family, Randomosity with tags:

I occasionally hop around onto random forums and check out the threads and posts there (if it’s a public forum, if I’m just forum-hopping, I don’t bother with making an account or trying to gain access into a members-only type of place). And one thread I happened across made me curious, so I checked it out.

It was a woman who was talking about how her step-son got a laptop for Christmas, and the step-son is 11 and she was wondering if that was ‘too young’ for a laptop. The responses were kind of interesting. Some of them were saying how a desktop would have been a better choice, or just use of a communal computer. And then others were voicing their concerns about internet and how if they’re 11, they should have monitoring on the laptop at all times and be able to have access to the kid’s computer and how pretty much everyone who responded to it said that they’d never let their child have free reign over the internet until they’re ‘old enough’ (but no one ever said what ‘old enough’ meant).

My parents? They’d get tarred and feathered if they were to ever go onto that forum and post about how they let me and my sisters have free reign on the internet when we first got it. Granted, I didn’t have a laptop at the age of 11 (it probably would have weighed like 20lbs and I didn’t really have much use for a laptop at that age). I got my laptop when I was 17 (just a few months shy of 18) because I was starting university. But when I was 10, I had free reign on the internet. My parents had drilled into me the dangers of exposing my personal details onto the internet (i.e. full name, age, birthdate, where I live, my address, my phone number, etc.) and also how to run a virus check. Seriously, by the age of 10, I was on the internet and I didn’t have my mom or dad looking over my shoulder all the time. Plus, I didn’t really need to use the computer for school until middle school, for some select assignments and whatnot. But I used a communal desktop computer at the time and we had dial-up internet (super expensive, tied up the phone line plus only 100 hours of internet per month!). But my parents had a little thing called trust in my judgment (even at the age of 10, who would have thunk…). Or maybe it’s because they instilled the fear of God (or just them…) in me with horror stories of little girls who post their address online and then end up on the evening news. Or just how much trouble I’d get with my parents for posting my address online.

However, having full access to the internet meant a lot of things. I had a Neopets account (have? had? I don’t think I ever disabled it, so it’s probably still kicking around somewhere!), I also participated in a lot of roleplaying games (text based, get your mind out of the gutter!) for years and years (since I was 10, I still participate in them though), joined forums and talked to loads of various people as well as having countless blogs and websites that my parents never knew about.

Of course, now that I’m older and haven’t ended up on the evening news (thank goodness), I still get free reign over the internet. I have my own computer now and I’m solely responsible for doing backups and virus checks over my own hard drive. I don’t see a problem with someone who’s 11 being able to go onto the internet without their mom or dad looking over their shoulder at all times. Granted, I would not trust an 11 year old with a laptop (older, refurbished laptop, maybe) only because it’s expensive and hard drives don’t really suffer falls down stairs very well (case in point, I’ve seen someone drop a laptop down a flight of concrete stairs at school before. It started off in one piece and ended up in about five by the time it landed near where the professor was). But by today’s parenting standards, my parents were pretty much insane (gasp) and not strict enough, in terms of not restricting my internet access…

So I’m just a bit curious…

At what age do you think it’s acceptable for a child (or teenager) to have their own computer?

Also, at what age do you think it’s okay for a child to be able to go onto the internet without their mom/dad monitoring everything that they visit/do?

Do you think it is acceptable for parents to install spyware or keyloggers onto their children’s computers in order to check everything that they’re doing and/or also have access to all their children’s accounts?

4 Responses to “Kids and the wild, wild internet?”

  1. Rachy says:

    My parents were pretty much the same as yours. They also warned me about posting personal information, and made sure I knew what I was doing. My whole family shared one computer, so I did have a limit on how many hours per day I could use it. I’m sure my parents checked the history occasionally to see what I was up to, but for the most part they trusted me enough to know that I wasn’t going to go searching for porn or anything. Most of my Internet time was spent on Neopets, or on forums for my favorite bands.
    I’ll be honest though. Everything I learned about sex, I learned from fan fiction when I was 13. So maybe I was a little more mischievous than my parents thought. ;D

    I didn’t get my own computer until I was 17, though, and in high school I shared one with my brother. I don’t think I would give an 11 year old their own computer, just because I would be paranoid they wouldn’t take care of it properly, but I wouldn’t stare over their shoulder at every little thing they do. The idea of invading my child’s privacy like that makes me cringe. Kids are people too.

  2. Kate says:

    At what age do you think it’s acceptable for a child (or teenager) to have their own computer? I haven’t really thought about this, I think it depends on the individual child and how mature they are. For instance someone of 13 may be very clued up (I was) and know not to give out personal info, another may give out their mobile number to an online friend… which at 13 I think is risky.

    Also, at what age do you think it’s okay for a child to be able to go onto the internet without their mom/dad monitoring everything that they visit/do? Again I think it depends on the individual, I was the same as you… well 11/12 when I started going online unsupervised. I’d say that’s a reasonable age as I never did anything bad but I think even then it’s a good idea to check the web history to make sure they haven’t stumbled across something they shouldn’t.

    Do you think it is acceptable for parents to install spyware or keyloggers onto their children’s computers in order to check everything that they’re doing and/or also have access to all their children’s accounts? I do agree with this but only up to a certain age as every body is entitled to privacy. I think maybe under the age of 13, again depending on the maturity of the child. 13 is around the age that kids, especially girls start to be very private and if they found out their parents were logging their activity you can see it being a HUGE deal to them as an invasion of privacy, etc.

    I pretty much agree with you with what you said in your blog and my introduction to the internet when very much the same. I had LOADS of online friends, websites, etc. which my mum never knew about.

  3. nichole says:

    noone ever really said anything about don’t do this / dont do that etc, but i was a fairly smart child, and i was rather paranoid, and i had common sense enough to be smart. I don’t agree with logging your childrens every move though!! i think at some point, you have to let go. it just depends on the child I suppose!!
    i however do think an 11 year old shouldn’t have their own laptop. but thats me!
    t

  4. Justin says:

    Oh… that’s very interesting. I would have gotten the kid a desktop, too. Laptops are a lot more expensive, and chances are that the kid’s first computer might get damaged or messed with in some way (we learn from our mistakes). Other than that, there’s no problem. I, like you, had full internet since I was really young…. nine, to be exact. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, unless people are implying we didn’t turn out well! lol

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