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Kids Access to Email and Internet

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This is probably more a parenting than scouting question.


We've been sharing a family email address for several months, but I'm getting tired of my kids' friends instant messaging me when I'm online. I'm considering letting the kids have their own email accounts. Is there a way I can keep an eye on what's going on other than demanding they give me their passwords? I realize they could go a free site and perhaps set up an account I'm not aware of.


My son has also joined many of his peers in setting up a personal internet page where he blogs, posts photos, etc. He is able to restrict access so old folks like me can't see all that's on there.


What's reasonable, or should I acknowledge my kids might be entitled to some level of privacy ?


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Well, how old are they, first off? No parent myself, but it seems that under the age of 13 or so it's best to keep an eye on them, even if it's just to make sure they're not handing out too much information. I remember when I was about 12 or so I got hit up by a rather creepy guy on AIM because I had my name for an SN and my city and age in my profile. These days I don't worry so much about it, as I know how to protect myself, but at that age it's a different matter. That aside, it's not too hard to land on some unsavory stuff by accident if you don't know what you're doing (and even easier if you do). If I recall correctly, doesn't the main account on AOL have the option/ability to check other accounts?


As to things like LiveJournal, that's just the reality of the situation, really. You can try creating an account of your own and asking them to put you on their list so you can at least see some of the hidden postings, but it's possible to filter within your friends group so only certain people within the group can't see things.


If all else fails, a scout is trustworthy. Have a family discussion, lay down some ground rules and come to an agreement on what is reasonable and what isn't. That way the kids understand what your concerns are, and you at least give the impression of being concerned about what their thoughts are in the matter (which makes them that much more likely to comply).

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I'm an over the shoulder guy. Both my kids (ages 15 and 16) have their own computers, primarily for school work; but there is a lot of chatting and gaming going on as well.


I just show up frequently and unexpectedly and take a look at the screen to see what's happening. Very scientific and high tech. It works for us. They are good kids.

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My son is 16. I gave him his second PC for Christmas, an iMac. He'd had a clamshell apple powerbook before.


I keep an eye on where he goes and what he does. His grades determine his access. C+ or below is not satisfactory; at that point he starts losing privileges. IM'ing is a privilege. Some email is essential, other email is privilege.


As President Reagan once said, trust but verify, or ... always cut the deck.

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Trust but Verify is a great attitude toward this. Our kids share a computer. It's in the "teen room" with their play station and TV. It's where they hang out, study, talk on the phone, etc. The teen room is always to be open and we can pop in any time. Plus, with two kids who like to antagonize each other (as brothers and sisters do), they do a pretty good job of monitoring each other's practices.


There is big brother software that monitors what websites you visit. There is even software that can capture all of their Instant Messages. I've explained to my kids that I can put that on at any time (and they probably wouldn't even know it).


Visit their websites that they create periodically and see what's going on. I've heard of parents learning a lot (sometimes shocked) by reading their kids blogs.

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Nephew's computer shares space in the computer room w/ our other 2 computers (yea, we are geeks, one computer per person in the house). He knows I can, will and do check his history, computer, files, etc at anytime. He's 12 now and except for one problem 2 years ago, he has never given us reason to revoke his computer privledges. I have asked him if he feels he can be trustworthy and stay out of inappropriate sites or do I need to put a babysitter on his computer. He said he was trustworthy and his history supports that. As far as setting up email/IM accounts, he uses an "alternative" name, one that isn't his real name when it asks for a First & Last name (like hotmail, they want a first name and a last name to put on emails).

Another vote here for Trust & Verify.




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Parents are responsible for knowing what their children are doing and with whom, until they are 18. Period.


My son, who is 27, let us know that our niece and nephew (age 12 and 11), have "MySpace" pages, and sent us the link. He also notified his cousins that he would be monitoring their space and would tell their mom and dad if anything inappropriate showed up. They e-mailed him 3 times in one day BEGGING him not to tell, so they must know that their parents would not approve. I took a look, and they are listing themselves as 18 year old high school students, a photo in a provocative (though not obscene) pose, and some profanity not becoming a young lady of proper upbringing. When Dateline NBC had a piece on MySpace last Sunday night, my wife called her sister to tell her she needed to watch. Her response, "yeah I guess I should, I really don't have a clue what they do on the computer." I suspect she didn't watch and doesn't really care. Of course if the parents squash their computer activity, they'll just go to a friend's house whose parents are equally clueless and too busy to notice what their kids do after school.


Parents are not parenting any more...that's just the way it is, and our society is suffering.


Suggestion for SirScoutalot...how about just deleting AIM from your computer? End of problem. What's reasonable? See my opening statement.

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Sir Scoutalot, my standard test for what my kids might get into without "preventative parenting" is to remember what I did, or might have done when I was their age. I gave my Mom grey hair and drove my dad completely bald!! -- And, too be honest, I was a good kid. But I was a kid, and capable of more harm to myself (and others) than I had a clue. Read any of the stats about kids, behavior and danger -- you'll end up getting brochures for safe places to lock your kids away until they're grown up!! ;)


IMHO, we go way overboard when we consider a child's privacy, or peer reputation as more important than our goals for their safety, well-being, and journey toward responsible adulthood.


There should NEVER be anything your child does to which you don't have access. On the computer, in their bedroom, in a diary, at school, ... anything, anywhere.


It sounds like your son's computer is not in a family space -- that's the first thing, bring the actual machine to a shared venue. Just knowing that your eyes are near is a great, yet non-threatening motivator of good choices.


Any quality computer-geek friend can probably show you how to access your son's "hidden" data. You can set that machine so you have overiding passwords, historical activity checks, etc.


All that being said, part of growing up is the classic battle for independence from parents. If you don't give them some breathing room in some areas of their life, you're depriving them of chances to learn and grow. Skinned knees, high adventure, and first dates are part of that breathing room -- electric relationships with strangers somewhere on the planet don't need to be!


Here's another vote for Trust and Verify!


...If for no other reason than for your future grandchildren!! What you do about your kids' behavior is short-term -- about the actual event and affecting their immediate behavior; but also long-term -- what your kids are learning from you about parenting and adult responsibilities.



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Alright, I'm gonna try giving the teenager's point of view:


1) If your kid knows anything about computers, the only way you will be able to babysit them is to have a program that tracks what they do. Doing that secretly doesn't seem to give them much trust. Example: it is extremely simple to clear the History of IE. Two clicks and it's done.


2) I see nothing wrong with parents looking at websites I visit.


3) I think if they are a teenager, having a computer in their room should not be a big deal. If you would have asked me two years ago, I wouldn't have said I'd have a computer in my room until college. Things have changed and I do now. My parents respect my privacy. They really don't have much reason to trust me and don't exactly have the capability to secretly spy on me. They don't know enough about computers to get onto my computer. I have it set up (with Windows XP) as having multiple user names. They have access to one--and it has no powers whatsoever. Why? Because they know very little about computers and I don't want them ruining my computer. I have to have a Guest account set up for them because our printer is now in my bedroom because our main computer's CD drive doesn't work properly.


4) Multiple computers can be good things. Right now there are 3 computers all running Windows XP Home in my house. They are all networked together. This was done by me. You know how you can set up Computer Admin accounts? I'm the Computer Admin at my house. My sister does what she wants on her computer, but the other two I am in charge of.


5) Most parents do not understand computers like kids do. Therefore, parents are not able to spy as easily unless they know what they are doing.


My reply kind of goes back and forth, but I want to stress that parental supervision should be shown, but only to a certain point. I think that point has to be determined by the parents and the kids together. What works for my family might not work for yours, etc.


Finally, would you want your kids reading your email? Then why do you need to be in theirs?



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Thanks Hops for the teenage point of view.

You know how totally uncool I am!!

You have met OJ and know that he is a typical everyday kid.

We seem to be overrun with computers. He has his laptop and the OA section laptop. I have two laptops and we have two PC's.

All set up to a wireless network.

I don't claim to be good on these things. In fact I learn how to do something new almost everyday.

I'm not very good at remembering passwords and names, so I have only two e-mail accounts at home and one for work.

OJ, like many of the Scouts I know seems to have about a dozen e-mail accounts!! Some are from the Lodge, then there is his Yahoo and Hotmail.

All the "Nasty Stuff" that appears on the computers seems to come as Spam. - You know what I mean.

I love my son very dearly. I would hate anything to ever happen to him. We have talked about what is on the Internet, he knows what is out there, I know that he knows.

Part of my loving him is me having faith in him and trusting him.

I admit I was upset one day when I had his lap top and found some rap music that had really nasty lyrics. I deleted them, but later got to thinking of some of the records and CD's that I own. Only last week in this very forum there was a link to a site (Which I really liked) but some of the songs were about drugs and drug use.

I thought to myself about people in glass houses.

I don't monitor his computer use.

We have talked about porn and why it isn't nice.

Still I remember when I was his age going to camp and seeing copies of Playboy and that sort of magazine. Believe me we were not reading the articles. We have talked about how these magazines exploit women and why we don't want them or that sort of stuff coming into our home in any way. (We don't have HBO or any of the premium TV channels)

While I'm not as religious as maybe I should be?

I'm trying to live a good Christian life.

At times some friends of mine pull my leg a little bit about being a Roman Catholic. They tease me about having to go to confession and confess about having impure thoughts.

In Scouting we have the A Scout is Clean as one of our Scout Laws. I really like the Buddhist wisdom that says thoughts become words, words become deeds, deeds become habits, habits become a way of life, our way of life becomes character, and character becomes our destiny.

While I know that some people will think I'm just being lazy and some people will think that I'm wrong. I do know that I'm not able to prevent the bad stuff from being out there, I don't think if OJ wanted to visit the nasty sites or look at stuff that I don't approve of that I could stop him, he can get it on his cell phone.

What I can do is make sure that he understands why I don't approve, I can make sure that he knows I'm here to listen and talk with him (Not at him.) I can make sure that he knows that he has my trust.

He is after all a Scout, he not only has to be trusted he has to be a person of honor. Or at least do his best to be one.


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The AIM account can simply be turned off while your on-line. Isn't there an x you can click on? Or right click and see what options it gives you.


It's very important that you learn everything about your computer. Ask a friend, read a book, or take a class. It's most important. You can limit what kind of sites they visit, but you will have to know more than them to do it.


Do you know how to go to the Start Menu and then to Programs to see what you have on your computer? Do you know how to clear your History? If you don't, your in trouble. Good luck and don't give up. You can do it!

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Finally, would you want your kids reading your email? Then why do you need to be in theirs?


Because I'm the parent and you are the child living under my roof. I am legally responsible for your care, feeding, safety and well-being until you are 18 and then you are free to move out of my house and do what you want. Simple as that. If more parents took this responsibility seriously, there would be fewer delinquents, teenage pregnancies, pedophile victims and drug abuse.


One day you will understand. My parents told me the same thing and they were right...I do understand...now.

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Because I'm the parent and you are the child living under my roof. - I agree fully!


And when they are at a friends house, library, school, etc. I can only do two things:

- hope and pray that I have done my job as a parent well enough that I don't have anything to worry about.

- hope and pray that you are doing your job so that if there is something that I need to worry about, you will not hesitate to inform me.


As a volunteer for the school that also charters our Pack, I have the responsibility to monitor the internet and PC activity of the students (I am a network administrator by profession). You would be amazed at the web sites that I see blocked by our filtering software on a regular basis. Some of them are obvious mistakes (a typo in a URL can lead to all sorts of things), but others are obviousy intentional attempts to look at inappropriate sites. All I can assume is that they found them at home or somewhere else, and they are trying to show off to their friends.


My son is only 8, but has heard the "cyber safety" lecture so many times I think he could probably run a class on it.




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My boys (ages 9 and 12) haven't gotten into instant messaging or e-mailing yet, but they do like to play multi-player on-line games. Our computer is in our living room, which is visible from both the kitchen and dining room. We will not let them have a computer with internet in their bedrooms, nor can they have a T.V. in their bedrooms. (We don't have cable or sattelite, so they don't mind the no-T.V. rule) My husband and I feel it is important to keep tabs on the boys, and there is no point in setting them up for temptation.


Also, as far as having internet and T.V. in their own bedroom, we don't want our boys to isolate themselves from the family, so they need to do those activities in "family" areas of the house. Too often, in the news, we've learned that the boys who have shot classmates at school were kids who isolated themselves from their families.

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