Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why I'm a bad mom, part 4: the Internet

Whew, this is getting to be a long series! So far we've covered naughty words, taking the kids on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and giving them wedgies. Now, on to the worst offense of all: The Internet.

My adorable husband is a big-time Linux geek, so he loves to build computers, set them up all over the house, and network them together. The result -- I'm ashamed to admit -- is that a non-trivial amount of our family time is spent all in a row in the computer room, him reading Linux and Math blogs, me reading Mormon and atheist blogs, and the kids at their computer googling for pictures of dinosaurs.

When I admit this to people, though, I keep getting a reaction I didn't really expect. I thought they'd say "Wow, what a lazy mom you are, teaching them to type words into the google image search page themselves to find pictures without help!" Instead people say "Watch out -- now they'll know what to do when they want to find porn."

Note that they're only six and four years old. Personally I don't understand why people are so obsessively horrified by the thought that their children will one day develop sexual desires. Then I don't get that a child's enthusiasm for learning new things on his own would immediately be linked to the bogeyman that one day this child might grow up and masturbate.

On the other hand, it might be just a worry about getting accurate information. After all, real live porn experts agree that porn is very poor as sex ed. But to me that's all the more reason to be glad that they know how to find accurate information as a supplement.

After all, I don't think it's realistic to imagine that I could forcibly prevent them from figuring out how to find porn, even if I wanted to. I'd rather ensure they that they know what it means to behave responsibly and that responsible behavior is what we expect.


Anonymous said...

well - all I can say is that my two love the Thomas the tank engine and sproutonline websites. There are simple games (that are actually still too complicated for them) but they love watching them anyway.

I think back to the days of playing "Oregon trail" on the old Macs at school (to date myself) during "computer time".

I think that sometimes play and searching can be very, very useful. It just doesn't seem like a bad mom thing to me.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Aerin!!!

Aside from Google images, my kids' favorite site is the BBC seamonster facts -- they look at that site all the time. I think I vaguely remember the "Oregon trail" game...

MattMan said...

*Presenting his linux geek card at the door to be allowed entry*

If you are concerning about filtering certain things, dansguardian is one of the best I've seen (for linux, of course). Highly configurable and content-based filtering. Point that at squid and you have a nice centralized web proxy for the rest of your computers. Your hb may already be doing this. :)

Having said that, though, I'm more likely to lean toward the non-censorship side of the fence. I would hope to have an open relationship so that my kids would be able to discuss things they're searching and viewing with me. Other than forming disrespectful and unhealthy views about the opposite sex, having them surf porn doesn't really bother me, ideologically (they aren't at that age yet anyway). The porn is really all the same anyway, like reading a bottle of shampoo (wash, rinse, repeat)... fellatio, cunnilingus (often skipped), rotate through a few positions, finish with facial, bukakke, or spray the tramp stamp (you know, the obligatory "me too" tattoo of something wing-like spread across the lower back torso). Makes for ok visual stimulation to accompany self-love, but like you said, not a very realistic education on the matter.

I'd be more worried about them getting sucked into cult-like irrational thinking and non-reasoning from sites like, but they're already getting than at least once a week in real life, so what's a dad to do. :P

The flip-side of the internet safety coin that deserves the *most* attention but often gets the least, is not what your kids "get" from the internet, but rather what they "put." Leaking real life info to cyberspace leads to everything from nuisance & annoyance (spam) to outright danger (predators). And for that, the only marginally effective means of filtering is through their brains with education. It all comes back to education, IMO, just like you said.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey MattMan!!!

Thanks for the tips!!!

Personally, I lean towards the "educate, but don't censor the content" philosophy. We'll see when they get older how things develop. On the other hand, I agree that their future posting and online interactions are the most dangerous, so we'll have to have a very serious talk with them about what kinds of information it's not okay to post (especially real-life contact info or planning clandestine visits to meet Internet friends...).

Freckle Face Girl said...

It is strange that people immediately think of porn when you talk about kids doing internet searches, especially young kids. Computers are part of our lives like television, phones, etc. Sure people can use them for many different purposes. I don't see anything wrong with teaching them to do their own searches. In fact, it only makes them smarter.

I let Lexi play/pound on the computer too. --I guess I am a bad mom too. :)

littlemissattitude said...

Sheesh. When I was three years old my parents helped me learn how to read so that I could use books (that was back in the days when the idea of a computer in every house and an internet connection to every computer was truly the stuff of science fiction) to find information without help.

I wonder if it ever occurred to any of my parents' friends to think this would enable me to find dirty books in the bookstore someday?

All it is, is a different medium. Maybe a little more convenient than having to leave the house, but really not that much different. Next time, tell them that if the kids want to find porn that badly, they'll likely manage to do it with or without a computer.

And as far as the censorship parents never, ever censored what I read. This was fairly brave of them, I think, considering that I was reading adult books by the time I was in the second grade. (The library ladies tried, but they weren't very successful...if they wouldn't let me check a book out of the library, I just sat in there and read it.)

I worried my parents a bit when I was in junior high and reading some pretty radical stuff (Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice, for example), but they trusted me enough not to start trying to tell me I couldn't read it.

Of course, I did turn into one of those most feared creatures among good Mormons and certain political persuasions, someone who can think for herself, but I still maintain that this is a good thing.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey FFG!!!

Cool -- we can be bad moms together! ;^)

Hey Ima!!!

That's great that your parents were brave enough to trust and not censor you even when your curiosity led in perhaps unexpected directions. It's also cool that the result was -- what I'm hoping for in my kids -- an independent thinker. :D

littlemissattitude said...

Actually, my father actively encouraged me to be an independent thinker in a couple of ways.

First of all, he taught me from a young age that the unofficial family motto is "Question Authority". And, really it was, going all the way back to the time during World War I and his father punched out his commanding officer when he didn't like an order he was given. Maybe not such a wise thing to do, being that he was in the German army at the time, but somehow he got out that little scrape to go on and, well, father my father, without which I wouldn't be sitting her writing this.

Even more helpful: from the time I could formulate an opinion, my father encouraged me to form my own opinions and didn't try to dictate the opinions I should have. The one requirement was that I be able to defend my opinions logically and intelligently, something he tested on a regular basis. Which turned me not only into an independent thinker, but into a critical thinker.

Which, I guess, begs the question, how did I ever get mixed up with the Mormons. I can only defend myself by saying that I was a teenager at the time, and peer pressure was a consideration. And I'm sure you know the story re: teenagers and peer pressure.

And, since I went back and read your first installment of the "bad mom" series, I'll just mention that my dad also taught me that the proper response to a burp (and to a fart, for that matter) is "Better outside floating than inside bloating." :)

My dad was a really cool person.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Ima!!!

He sounds like it. :D

Paul Sunstone said...

I'm more concerned about my nephews getting religion, Chanson, than I am about them finding porn on the net. Seems to me it's much more difficult to de-convert from a religion than it is to grasp porn isn't true to life.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Paul!!!

I understand how you feel, particularly if they're getting religion from a source (church) that presents one side only. But the Internet is a great antidote and a fantastic place to learn about religion: here religion gets to compete in the marketplace of ideas on equal footing with other ideas. And may the best ideas win!!! :D

Cyn Bagley said...

hey.. my husband has computers networked all over the house too... In fact, he has them connected to radios (Amateur radio). Now that's a kick. LOL

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Cynthia!!!

He has them networked to amateur radio sets? Okay, that's a new dimention of teck-geekiness... ;^)

Cyn Bagley said...

Oh yea.. they now have a way to connect to the internet with radios. Well, it is not too far-fetched (I mean telephones, hello).

They mostly use it for emergency communications.

Anonymous said...

Good gawd almighty - what's this world coming to when kids grow up to have sexual desires and then masturbate as a consequence??? I see nothing but the perpetuation of the species in all of it.

Oh wait, isn't that the point?

I will probably die not understanding why people get so freaked out about sex and genitals and stuff. I think your approach Ms. Canzone, is one of the healthiest I've yet heard of.

Instead of calling this series "Why I'm a bad mom" it should be retitled, "Why I'm the smartest mom in the world!"

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Tom!!!