Internet fail – how I let my teenager down

By Rachel Hynes.

I can’t shake the feeling that I may have let my teenager down when it came to how we handled the Internet in our house.

In 1998, the year my daughter was born, it really was a new frontier. Australia was one of a handful of countries with a significant number of Internet users – 5.7 million Australians were online, and Telstra and Optus were emerging as the main internet service providers.  (For an interesting snapshot of world Internet use at this time and how it’s changed over the years, see this interactive map from the BBC).

Yahoo in 1998

I remember signing up for my Yahoo email account around this time. Heaven knows who I was emailing. I also remember playing messages of congratulations for our new baby on a cassette tape in our answering machine, so there was plenty of low-tech action as well.

As my daughter grew, so did the spread and sophistication of the Internet. She’d already learned to handle the iMac G3 and its mouse around the same time she’d handled her own spoon. As a school-aged child she was playing on basic kids’ websites and early social platforms like Club Penguin.

iMac G3

We’d spoken with her about the “dangers of the Internet” – ie communicating with people she didn’t know. Which didn’t stop her entering an adult chat room at around the age of 8 or 9 and saying “Hi, I’m new here, can anyone show me around?”  Which is an instructive example for other parents. You can be as Internet savvy as you like, give your child contracts to sign and know all their passwords. But kids are curious critters and there’ll always be those munchkins who want to open the door that says No Entry.

I thought about parental controls back in the day. Looked into them, tried them a bit, got annoyed at always having to make exclusions for every site I wanted to visit, gave up. It didn’t occur to me in those early days that my child would see pornography online by the time she was a teenager. It seems almost quaint that I’d been more concerned about a pig-tailed and sexualised Britney Spears on Video Smash Hits.

Hit Me Baby One More Time Britney Spears

Fifteen years later, even though the horse has truly bolted and was last spotted running for the Great Dividing Range, I am finally going to get on top of this issue. It’s no longer about just accessing “inappropriate” websites, it’s also about managing the time spent on numerous screens and balancing it with life and school, it’s about Internet security (apparently – I’ve always been a bit head-in-the-sand with this and don’t even really know what it means) and it’s about taking it all a bit more seriously with my two younger children, considering I have some regrets about how I treated it first time around. I would like to have protected my YouTube-mad 5-year-old from Nicky Minaj a bit longer too, but again I’ve acted too late.

So over the next few weeks, I am going to address my challenges one at a time. This way, I’m hoping I won’t get overwhelmed by the task, which has put me off in the past, and I can do some research and let you know how I go in case you are facing the same challenges as I am.

I am finally going to get on top of:

  • managing my teenager’s time online, without complicated schedules or relying on her or me to monitor her time (because that’s just tiresome and doesn’t work around here)
  • the fact our children’s innocent little eyeballs are always one click away from adult images. This needs to be achieved without our teenager losing access to teen staples like Tumblr
  • Internet security, because I’ve been told it’s important and I think that maybe I should check it out.

There, I’ve said it now. The Internet is my witness and there’s no turning back. I’ll be back next week with my research and findings on how to manage time spent online, with minimum effort required from myself and her.

How in control of your household’s Internet use are you?
Have you tried parental controls?
Are you worried by what your children can access and have you ever done anything about it?

 

 

Comments

  1. You are not alone here my friend, I wish that I had taken the time to learn a bit more of what is out there myself. Over time I have gained a lot more knowledge and have been able to put some kind of plan into action to keep a closer eye on my younger two. It’s good to know that in some cases we are not alone. thank you for sharing and I look forward to next weeks post 🙂

    • Thanks Beck – can I ask what your plan of action currently is? I am looking to learn from others’ experiences as much as possible.

  2. I had one of our periodic “we need to do this better” conversations with my husband yesterday on just this topic, particularly the managing of time spent online and gaming. For us as well as the kids. Changes are going to be made. There, now I’ve said it too – hold me to it!

    • Will do! We’ll be an online support team to monitor progress. Parents of younger kids who are all across this will shake their heads sadly 🙂

  3. I feel like the more I read the more I realised that by doing nothing I am actually doing something very wrong. I have the parental controls disc here and I haven’t installed it yet. We all need to do it better but sometimes I think as parents we are scared of upsetting status quo! Goodluck with the new rules.
    Eleise recently posted..The truth about being a step mum!My Profile

    • Upsetting the status quo has definitely been a factor for me in my lack of action. How do you get a teenager who has had largely unfettered use of the internet until now to suddenly accept restrictions? I’ll let you know how we go!

  4. Ok that was the wake-up call I needed. I have also been guilty of putting this “parental controls” issue in the too hard basket and it’s time to take action. My oldest son is only 10 but the inquisitive nature of little boys surely means it won’t be long before they go looking for things they really don’t need to see.
    I will be follwing any tips or advice that you or other can offer on this subject. I must admit I don’t even know where to start 🙁

    • Rachel I would say ten is definitely a good time to be thinking about these things and acting. Hopefully I can present some clear, simple, easy to follow steps. When I work out what they might be 🙂

  5. Good luck. Really interested to see the result. I try but think I fail miserably at this and given we’ve gone from a one computer, one i-pad house to a one desktop, two laptop, two ipad house in the space of the last four weeks I’ve got no bloody idea how to control this technological nightmare we are living.
    Janine Fitzpatrick recently posted..Monday Morning PhotoMy Profile

    • Oh it’s the sheer quantity of devices that makes it all seem so hard! That Bondi blue baby above was the sole machine in our home with Internet connection, and I STILL couldn’t get my ahead around parental controls.

  6. Managing the internet / screen time would have to be THE #1 concern of parents these days. Our kids are 18 & 16 and we don’t feel we’ve succeeded in this are at all …
    Janet @ Redland City Living recently posted..10 Marriage TipsMy Profile

    • Yes Janet I’m beginning to think you are right. I’m obviously far from being the only one who feels like they’ve failed in this area.

  7. I’m intrigued … I’m totally in the dark on this issue, and I’m still in the baby stages. I’ll be very interested to see what steps you put in place, for my own future reference! At this point I just put aeroplane mode on anytime the girls use the iPad, so they can’t access the Internet (cos I won’t let them search YouTube without me), but they can still play all the games. I’m watching this space!!

    • Hmm, see, I don’t even think about aeroplane mode. For someone who’s quite tech savvy, and has been beaten around the head with this kind of info, I’ve done very little about it.

    • Kim’s comments apply to me too. Still very early.
      As a HS teacher I can say, quite confidently, that teens see WAY too much.

  8. It is a hard issue to tackle I think, I know that at highschools I have worked at they have really strict controls, but the teens are savvy and they know the back door ways around them, so I don’t think just blocking certain sites actually works all the time. I hope you work it out and let us know how you go. I think a lot of it is about openess and communication with them too! x Karen #teamIBOT
    Karen recently posted..Lentil and Haloumi SaladMy Profile

    • Thanks Karen, I do agree about openness and communication. We may not always get it in return, but if we can offer it, it helps.

  9. It truly is a hard thing to deal with. I too feel that I have failed in some way with my 20yr old. The computer was always out in the open so we could see what she was doing but I still felt that she really was only a click away from unsuitable sites. I cannot believe how quickly they learn how to get around blocks etc.
    This whole parenting thing is so easy ………. said nobody ever !!!
    Have a great day !
    Me

    • Hey Me, I gave up that “computer in a central place” rule a long time ago. I’m impressed you stuck with it. Perhaps it’s harder now with smart phones, school laptops, laptops in general….

  10. Keep us posted on how you go!
    I sit here reading this post and agreeing on everything you say, yet on each side of me I have a 3 year old happily playing on an iPad…each. I have to start thinking about our home’s internet rules very, very soon!
    Grace recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – Poet’s PicnicMy Profile

    • My little ones are the same Grace, and we have no parental controls on the iPad. When I work those out I’ll get back to you on it 🙂

  11. Need the follow up post! How do we manage time without them or us being in charge. I have to be the manager of the boys’ time. My eldest has to hand in phone and laptop… he has it in his room which I think is not good but public spaces have twins running around and he’s 16 and has ASD and they drive him to distraction. Have recently taken a computer out of Mr13’s room and that feels god to me.

    Much to discuss. I also need to manage myself of course!!
    Seana Smith recently posted..Murray’s Beach at Jervis Bay – And The Shark That Got AwayMy Profile

    • I gave up on the computer in a public space thing ages ago Seana! Teens need time on their own in their cave, and their computer use just doesn’t fit tidily into an hour at the dining table with everyone else around. I know it can be done if you really want to, but it wasn’t for us. BUT, the trick now of course is managing their computer time in an automated way. Still working on it, and hoping to post again soon!!!

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