I’m not sure how other parents of five through seven-year-old children handle Internet privileges, but I’m pretty paranoid about it myself. I know there’s all kinds of parental locks and blocking mechanisms, and I’ve set them up with passwords. I’m still wary of my sons playing on the computer without me watching over their shoulder.
Apparently, I’m un-cool for this. I’m starting to be told how this kid’s dad and that kid’s mom let them play Poptropica all night and how they even got memberships and I don’t need to be sitting in there watching them play. These other parents either have super advanced protective software on their computers, are unaware that Poptropica is a social Internet site where anyone can create a character who can interact with others, or are so desperate to have their kids occupied and not at their side, poking them, saying, “Mom, Dad, Mom, Dad,” that they just don’t care.
Personally, my conscience won’t let me leave them unattended in front of the computer. I imagine Chris Hansen knocking on my front door.
“Sir, I’m Chris Hansen and we’re filming To Catch A Predator. Are you aware that your sons are currently roaming the Internet unattended?”
I’m sure I’d be embarrassed when I opened the door with an issue of Captain America tucked under my arm, wearing a ripped World’s Greatest Dad t-shirt and pajama pants whose crotch opening never quite closes correctly. Not the way you want to make your national television debut.
To be honest, I don’t even like letting my sons play on the computer without a direct line of sight to the screen. I learned this lesson when I heard them cracking up to a video on YouTube with no sound other than people laughing in the background. Somehow, after letting them watch the Funny Gummy Bear video, they navigated to a different, less appropriate video clip as I sat a mere ten feet away on the couch.
“How did the monkey aim the pee into his mouth?!” my five-year-old wondered through laughter.
This video, though gross, wasn’t necessarily the bad part. You can imagine the list of related videos along the right side of the screen, however. Thank God I got over there before they began perusing their options for further animal related video entertainment.
Their school has a website with educational games that I let them play on, but either my wife or me sit next to them while they do it. My eldest was pestering me today to buy him a Poptropica membership so I told him he could afford one himself if he sold his DS and all the games. I used to let them watch old Marvel cartoons on YouTube, but that was before the peeing monkey incident.
So, the computers in my household are currently on lock down from my sons until I figure out how to handle their adventurous Internet attitudes. Hopefully a spring and summer full of outdoor activity will keep them from resorting to the computers for entertainment at all. Maybe by next fall, I’ll have a discouragement strategy in place.