Originally created 03/14/03

Keeping a watchful eye

We recently pieced together an old computer for Ben to use in his bedroom.

It has the programs he needs to write reports for school and to play games - the basic stuff.

But the arguments started before we even plugged it in.

He wants Internet access.

We say no.

The computer in the family room has high-speed cable access and he can use it whenever he wants. And it's in a place we can monitor. Ben may promise not to go to sites he's not supposed to go, but come on - he's 10-years-old. And get two or three 10-year-old boys together behind closed doors and who knows what's going on. We're not talking about a Playboy magazine stuffed under the mattress - there's some bad stuff out there.

He had sound arguments: he needs to do research for school; he likes to surf for paint ball guns; he likes the online games; the list goes on.

But it's too dangerous and we need the control. How many times while innocently searching the web have you suddenly been inundated with pop-ups that will make the most open-minded adult blush? We've all heard stories of those innocent little chat rooms becoming very dangerous for grownups - much less children.

Ben's arguments will be harder to deal with as he gets older and as the Internet becomes even more a part of our daily lives. But we'll stick to our guns. It's just too easy to be led down the wrong path while sitting at a computer screen - the checks and balances we're used to just aren't there.

I want to be able to quickly and easily see what he's up to. I want him to know his parents are watching. It's my job - it's my responsibility.

I've been fairly lenient. The boys play a silly game called Elf Bowling that's full of silly potty humor - some that's a little offensive, but it not worse than what a group of boys talk about when they're together. And I let them watch Austin Powers - OK, that was a mistake.

Children, even teen-agers, aren't equipped to deal with so many things on the Internet. I'm not even sure what all is out there - I just know a few things I've stumbled on weren't fit for anyone's eyes, much less my children.

But it's also filled with wonderful things that they need and want. I don't want to keep them from the good that's out there.

So that's where I got the idea for this month's cover story on keeping your children safe on the Internet. It's an issue that isn't going away anytime soon. And that's too bad. The Internet is a wonderful tool. But like so many things - somebody's going to abuse it. There's just way too much abuse going on for my tastes. Probably yours too.

***Make sure you don't miss Jennie Montgomery's Mom TV column and Karen Gross' Book Some Time column.

Jennie writes about how motherhood has so profoundly affected her life. Usually that topic gets a little sappy, but Jennie has just the right touch. I admit, it brought a few tears when I read it.

Karen review's of the book "Lost and Found: A Kid's Book for Living Through Loss" which deals with helping children cope with losses in life. Her review is especially well written. This is a book every family should have since at some point we all deal with some sort of lose.

Jennifer Miller and her husband Ed have two sons, Ben, 10 and Zack, 7. They live in Martinez.


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