Parenting in the Age of the Internet

Back in the early to middle part of the 1990s, mass media told parents all around the world that the brains of their children were being rotted out by inappropriate content. I would know. That’s where I spent my childhood. It was during that time that we were being “encouraged” to do drugs by the grunge music scene. We were shown just how fun violence could be with Hollywood movies and Mortal Kombat. We had language that would make a sailor blush and we showed no respect for authority, because we were listening to all that “gangsta rap.”

And somehow, miraculously, here I am as (I hope) a reasonably well-adjusted adult who has carved out a reasonably respectable career as a freelance writer and tech journalist. The thing is, when I was growing up, it wasn’t quite as difficult for parents to monitor what they’re children were watching, playing and listening to. If I sat down with my Super Nintendo in the living room, it didn’t take much for mom and dad to see whether the content of my chosen video game was appropriate for my age at the time. If I wanted to watch a movie with violence, course language and nudity, I had to go with an adult. They could keep tabs on me (not that I thought it was necessary, but that’s beside the point).

The current generation of children are a little different, though. They have the Internet.

It wasn’t until the later part of my high school career that the Internet really became “a thing,” but even then, there wasn’t nearly as much “inappropriate” content on the web as there is today. Especially given the super fast broadband speeds that nearly everyone enjoys today, it’s incredibly easy for little Timmy to come across a website with streaming “adult” content. That’s not just pictures either, because video is super accessible too. And then there’s all this talk about Internet predators too.

So, what is a concerned parent to do? It used to be that there would be one computer in the house shared by all family members, but that’s becoming less and less the case. Little Suzie might really need a new Ultrabook in order to do her homework. And it’s just not practical to have mom or dad hovering over her shoulder the entire time she is typing up that report on the War of 1812. Suzie probably wouldn’t like that either. And that constant hovering might even encourage her to rebel. No one wins there.

When a concerned parent can’t be physically present, can he or she still keep tabs on what the children are doing online? The truth is that you can find an abundance of keylogger software that works in the background, completely hidden from view. It’ll track what websites are being visited and what terms are being entered into search engines. It can even take periodic screenshots, logging all of this data for later access on an as-needed basis.

Similarly, what about when it comes to their smartphones and tablets? These gadgets are becoming increasingly ubiquitous too and that’s why there is a growing variety of mobile security solutions to consider. Some of these include parental controls and monitoring, which would add to the toolset available to the moms and dads of the world.

These tools don’t really solve the problem of parenting in the age of the Internet, but they do arm you with valuable information. It’s still up to you to figure out how you’re going to confront little Timmy or Suzie about their web surfing habits. No one said it was going to be easy.


Image credit: Lars Plougmann on Flickr

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