Issue #193, May 26, 1999  
Making a Case For Parental Responsibility 

By Stephen Lawton 

     Today is Saturday. My wife and I took our two children and four of their friends to the San Francisco Zoo to see the new anteater and condor exhibit. Why is this trip important to the readers of MicroTimes? Because much of what the kids, at least the 9- and 10-year-olds, talked about was computers and the Internet. 
     A radio station we listened to on the way was promoting a contest in which the winners would receive two Game Boys and two Pokémon games, appealing prizes these days. The children also talked about studying for a school project — and using the Internet for their research. And when we got home, the first thing they did was jump on the computer and play games. 
     Computers are ubiquitous — part of the fabric of our lives, regardless of age. We parents need to take responsibility for what our children do while online or playing games. If we forgo this responsibility, the government, through legislation, might try to dictate what acceptable use is. 
     A lot has been said about censorship of the Internet, particularly after the tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado. That shooting hit close to home for us at MicroTimes, since three of our writers live in that state, one just a few miles from the school. What can — and should — we do? 
     Parents must take a personal interest inwhat our children view on the Internet. Here are a few things you can do to make technology more child-friendly. 
   · If you have young children using a PC in the home, place the computer in a common room, such as a den or the family room. Having the PC in your children’s room makes it much more difficult to monitor their activity. 
   · If your children have Web sites, monitor what they put on the site. Needless to say, you’ll want to know if they advocate violence. But you also need to make sure they don’t put personal information on their site that might put them at risk to an Internet predator. Do not let your children post their phone numbers or home address, for example. 
   · Monitor the sites they visit. If they begin spending an inordinate amount of time at sites promoting hate and violence, that’s a red flag. Take appropriate action. 
   · Talk to your kids about chat rooms and Usenet newsgroups. Let them know that strangers in chat rooms are just that: strangers. You wouldn’t tell a stranger on the street where you live and what time your parents are gone, leaving you home alone. Your children should use that same common sense in a chat room, too. Likewise, parents choose to keep some inappropriate print publications from their children. The same holds for newsgroups. 
     Personal responsibility is the No. 1 defense parents have to protect their children on the Internet. Government-sponsored censorship is not appropriate, but parental censorship certainly is. I do not allow my children to watch movies or television shows with gratuitous sex or violence. The Internet is no different. Taking an interest in your children’s Internet activities not only shows them you care, it could help diffuse problems before they manifest themselves as antisocial behavior. 
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