This Dad Believes In Parental Internet Monitoring
Lady Gaga, internet predators, the boy next door: What is this world coming to? They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what if the villagers scare me to death? I am a 44-year-old parent of a 13-year-old daughter. And yes, I deprive her of her personal freedoms by checking her online activity. In a recent review, I found her in conversation with a 19-year-old who wanted to know what she wore to bed. In another post, I found a local boy, whom my wife and I had thought was a nice young man, goading her to click on a porn website. What’s a parent to do? With the hopes of informing others, let me share our recent experience.
My wife and I are diligent snoopers. We read emails (a copy of every email is forwarded to me), Facebook postings (FB has parental controls with a notification setting called Minor Monitor that forwards alerts), and text messages on a regular basis. Our children know we do this, and we discuss what is appropriate. However, despite these checks and balances, things that make our skin crawl still creep into the lives of our children.
The easy thing is to blame the other party. But I urge you not to make that error. I recognize that my daughter has some level of responsibility. She is not a stupid kid, perhaps naïve, but not stupid. She didn’t have to click, answer or engage in conversation. We have always preached stranger alert at playgrounds, but for some reason teens don’t apply this rationale to online activities.
Family Online Rules
So, my wife and I have instituted the following rules:
1. All “friend” requests are cc’d to my wife. Most computer parental controls allow for this, especially Apple.
2. My daughter must explain how she knows each “friend” in her list. If she doesn’t know them to our standard, they are removed and blocked.
3. We use parental controls and monitor every message. My daughter resents this but I signed on to be her parent, not her friend. If someone sends an inappropriate message (a message she would not want her grandmother to read) then I respond instead of her. My message says, “This is her father and your comments are unacceptable.”
- If the line is crossed again, I contact the person’s parent and explain the inappropriateness of their child’s behavior.
- If this occurs again, I request that once the parent is done dealing with their child, the child should write a letter of apology to my daughter and explain why their communication was inappropriate.
- If the message truly crosses a line (I want to pull out the shotgun) I call the police to deal with this in a rational way that a father cannot do without landing himself in jail.
So What Happened to the Two Boys?
As for the two boys … Our caller from Michigan turned out to be a 19-year-old high school graduate living with his parents. I know this because I traced the phone call by using the area code and exchange. His chat name led me to his Facebook account (pictures included). Using this information, I called his local police department. The detectives were quick to respond, and they have since gone to the young man’s home to speak with his family.
As for the boy next door, I called the family and calmly explained what occurred. I trust them to handle the situation appropriately. I expect to hear back shortly and will be asking for the apology letter. Relations between our children will be awkward for a bit, but hopefully that will pass.
My hope is that both circumstances are life lessons that will stop behavior from escalating. Technology, for all its merit, does come with issues. Perhaps 13-year-olds are too young emotionally to deal with our open society. Our children quickly grow to adulthood and need to understand the implications of their actions. Responsible parents need to teach these lessons (not television shows that glamorize promiscuity). We need to engage our children with family activity and measured guidance, walking side-by-side together.