Thursday, November 17, 2005


My ten-year-old daughter delivered this to me last night:

My Christmas Wish List

1. First I want a dog that is a sheltie (shetland sheepdog) that has long brownish-grayish hair.

2. Then I want a play station 2 that is black.

3. Then I want Neopets the darkest fairy for the play station 2.

4. Then I want monster rancher 3 and 4.

5. Then here's something that you are definitely going to say NO!!! But you can't blame a girl for trying! Here it goes! A snake!

6. Then here's another NO!!! thing. A bunny.

7. One more NO!!! thing. Internet!

8. Finally one of all the Horse computer games at the game store!

Substitute books for the computer games and it's almost carbon copy of the wish list I wrote when I was ten. So much for mom's theory that all little girls want are Barbies.

Missy, the dog we lost to cancer and old age two years ago, was a Sheltie, which explains #1. #5 & #6 are a little more difficult -- I'm thinking of the care involved, for which she would be responsible -- but doable. #7 is already available to her (and her older brother) if she uses my computer or her dad's while one of us is in the room. What's she's asking for with #7 is her own internet account and a cable modem hooked up to her bedroom computer.

The internet is the real issue here. My daughter is active on a number of web sites for kids and has made some terrific friends out there in cyberspace (because of the hate mongers who come after me and other safety issues my kids have always had to use online pseudonyms.)Unfortunately I've found adult-aged users on several of the G-rated children's sites she visits, so we've also had some serious talks about giving out personal information, what is appropriate online contact, etc.

I trust my kids, but I also do e-mail and activity spot checks to keep up with what they do on the internet. Yes, that probably makes me a Nazi, but those are the house rules. My daughter has an active buddy list and has been in moderated chats, and she understands what is acceptable language. She's already been approached by adults and brushed them off, and hangs out mainly with girls her own age (we hope. We really never know.) I have asked her to let me know if anyone says or sends anything to her that frightens her, but so far as I know, no one's tried. I think that's all a parent can do without sealing their kid in a plastic bubble.

I think this year I can manage a new dog, because we feel we've mourned our poor Missy long enough. Although we love our cats, we all miss having a dog in the house, too. The personal Internet connection . . . no. Maybe I'm overprotective, but I'd like to keep a close eye on my kids' use of the Internet for a few more years. Maybe I'll get that for her thirtieth birthday.


  1. Anonymous7:48 AM

    I don't think you're a nazi. Our daughter is 15 - soon to be 16 - and while she has a computer in her bedroom, the only internet is downstairs with mom and dad.

    She's mostly on Harry Potter and Star Wars fan sites, and gets emails from her school friends. So far, no chat room problems - for her. Hubby and I, tho, run into them from time to time. He was playing a game online a couple weeks ago and a female character offered cyber sex. Just this weekend, while while I chatted in an assumably safe place, talk of erotica fiction melded into actual sex talk.

    Do whatever you think is best, but I don't think you're a nazi. At all.

  2. My kids are 8 and 10, and both have PCs in their rooms with internet. How did I manage that? I'm a Linux network admin, and sitting in my office is an old PC running two layers of web filtering (SquidGuard with a whitelist plus Dansguardian) The kids' PCs can access exactly three websites (Yes, one is neopets. They're addicted to that one.) No MSN or other chatrooms allowed, they can talk to other kids at school, acrobatics, martial arts, circus training and whatever else they're up to daytimes.
    They can send email but replies come to me, so I vet those and copy appropriate ones onto their PCs.
    Is it draconian? Probably, but the alternative is no internet for them.
    I wouldn't give my kids a Windows PC with full-on internet access, relying on filtering on the same machine. If they don't hack their way past the nanny software one of their little PC-aware buddies will.
    Back on topic. My eldest wants Black & White II for xmas, or failing that GTA3. Hmm.
    This is Australia, we have plenty of snakes for the taking.
    Pets: Guinea pigs. Miles better than rabbits because they're hardy little critters and they don't dig, bite, climb, jump or make any noise. And too big for the snakes to swallow whole.

  3. Flaming liberal that I am, I come down on the "not a nazi" side. I've always had the free run of the internet, since we got hooked up when I was fourteen--and since then I was intensely private about my own use of the internet, not because I was doing anything wrong or unsafe, but for the same reasons I don't want people listening in on my phone conversations or going through my mail.

    Of course, in those days I was connecting at about 1200 baud, so I didn't have a good enough connection for anything unsafe.

    Even so, ten does seem slightly too young.

  4. Anonymous8:28 AM

    There was only one Internet computer in the house when we were all at home, and it was on the parents' computer in the living room, and they monitored everything we visited. I consider that reasonable, and we didn't mind. We had our own computers in our rooms, just no Internet. I don't consider my parents Nazis for doing it; just good parents who wanted to keep an eye on us.

    As for the snake and bunny, if she'd like to know what goes into caring for either, I can give full descriptions. I have a great (lengthy) description of what I have to do to clean Bunny Village every Saturday (I volunteer at our Children's Zoo). *-*

  5. Man, I think of all the trouble I'd have gotten into if I'd had a computer and internet connection when I was a kid. *Shudder*

    I think it's important to monitor what your kid does on the net. There are just too many preditors out there who are very good at acting like kids. They hang in the kids rooms so they know just what to say. You're a smart mother.

  6. You are not a Nazi. Your rules seem eminently reasonable to me.

    The danger is overhyped (really quite badly, I think) but your approach closely mimics ours, where the only computers with net access sit downstairs in plain view.

  7. Doesn't make you a Natzi, mean or overbearing. Sadly there's too many sickos out there. My daughter isn't allowed to surf the net alone either and she's 11.

    Have fun with the puppy! Nice present.

    Speaking of presents, all my son wants is XBox 360. Insert hysterical laugh.

  8. Anonymous9:16 AM

    It's a tricky one. The pervs spend all day, every day perfecting their technique. On the other hand, the real world is full of sociopaths anyway. Perhaps the internet is a safer place to learn that? I think you're right to keep the trainign wheels on.

  9. Parents who don't parent their kids on the internet are the ones who make it easy for the various creeps taking advantage of them. If more people were like you, our kids would be safer.

    There's no reason to not have a controlled internet environment. Not only for the kid's sake, but for avoiding viruses and spyware. Kids don't realize how many sites out there are dangerous in that respect.

    We have two computers and both are downstairs where they are always monitored. My husband is a programmer so he routinely checks sites visited and such.

    Luckily, I don't have to worry as much. My daughter is too busy with the local friends and the friends back home.

    I just have to deal with the real life stalkers in town!

  10. I was always accused of being too over-protective, but now that our kids are grown--and they have kids of their own--they've actually thanked us for being that way. I always remember what the HPD detective who headed the unit dealing with rape and child sexual abuse said at a MWA lunch. Based on what he'd seen, there was no way a parent can be too over-protective. The ones he ran into that weren't that way have regretted it every day of their lives.

  11. Anonymous10:21 AM

    A snake and a bunny? Don't snakes eat bunnies? That could be a bad situation...

    I'm torn on the Internet issue, probably because it was only a few years ago that I was a kid myself. On the one hand, I would have felt betrayed if I found out my parents were reading my emails and forum posts - I wasn't doing or saying anything bad, but what I wrote wasn't written with my parents in mind. On the other hand, it's undoubtedly important for you to watch out for her safety. Besides, I think when I was ten we had just gotten Internet, and we had (ugh) AOL, and my account had Child access, so I could only get into the kid section of AOL. I also never explored the websites outside of AOL at that point. I don't think I started seriously using the Internet until I was about thirteen.

    So since I'm conflicted about the issue, I guess I'll leave it at "do what seems best to you." The only advice I'll give is to tell her everything you're doing (which it sounds like you already do). If she knows those are the rules, that's one thing; if you're reading her emails without her knowledge, that's quite another.

  12. Anonymous10:40 AM

    Luminessence wrote: The only advice I'll give is to tell her everything you're doing (which it sounds like you already do). If she knows those are the rules, that's one thing; if you're reading her emails without her knowledge, that's quite another.

    I'm going to second this opinion very strongly. I do not go sneaking around when I spot check; I do it with the kids sitting right there beside me so that they know what I'm doing and we can discuss anything that looks questionable. The kids are always aware that I can and will backtrack their activity on the internet, and they don't resent the fact that I do, because that's how we started out doing this from the first time they went on the web.

    I'm also very selective about what I look at on their e-mail accounts, which is anything that looks wonky, like unsolicited e-mails, penis enhancement SPAM and so forth. My 13 year old and his girlfriend exchange e-mail that I never check, for example, because that's where I feel I would be crossing the line into violating his privacy. Before they started e-mailing each other, however, I talked to him about e-mail content -- I may not check his, but her parents may be checking hers.

  13. I always worry that I'm overprotective. I mean, I'm the only parent who goes to the bus stop with my kids and waits there until the bus comes (they're 9 and 6)

    I haven't started worrying about the internet yet. The kids don't go to chat or message boards or anything though. Not yet anyway.

    I guess we just have to do what makes sense to us.

  14. Anonymous11:10 AM

    May I weigh in on the snake issue?

    I've been the proud owner of Scarlet, a Mexican Milk Snake, for nearly a year, and it's one of the easiest, cleanest pets I've ever owned. My son (who's 12) has a guinea pig, and she's infinitely more work than my snake.

    Scarlet's quiet. She's happy to be held, and will snuggle against my neck or under my hair. She's a constrictor, so there's almost no danger of being bitten. She eats live food, which takes a little getting used to, but she only eats once every ten days (which means it costs around $4 per month to feed her!) I only have to clean out her home once a month, and even then, I usually use a straining spoon to fish out the bigger bits.

    And the neat thing is that she's got as much personality as any mammal I've ever owned (more so than some!) She wasn't named for her color, but for her diva attitude! You haven't lived until you've met the Empress of Snakes! *grin*


  15. Anonymous11:11 AM

    Not A former friend of mine went to jail a while ago for running dragnets for teen-agers. Nothing happened to any teens because his first meeting with an online teen was with the FBI instead.

    It also goes to show that you never can tell. I'd known this guy for 12 years and never suspected. What's worse is his family defended him. "He didn't do anything wrong," they'd say. I say it's only because he got caught on his first foray.

    We had given our 12-year-old boy a password and personal internet access. It wasn't long before I saw porn on his computer. Needless to say, internet access is supervised at my house too. My house, my computer, my rules.

    It looks like you're doing everything right. Congrats.

  16. PBW -

    It's so refreshing to read that you (and other parents here) are taking an active role in monitoring - not prying - monitoring their children's Internet use. The Internet is a virtual world, and just like the real world, there are kid-safe places next to not-so-kid-safe places. A little pro-active parenting and care can prevent a lot of trouble.

    I'm proud to say that we monitor things here carefully as well. We control the domain and the servers for our e-mail and Internet connection, so we can lock things down pretty tightly if need be. So far - there hasn't been a need. *whew*

    As for the snake - I've known several people who've had snakes with no problems. I think that kind of pet depends on individual taste - maybe that's not to your taste. And speaking of taste - none of them had any bunnies around. Coincidence? :-D

    Barbies? Barbies? We don't need no stinkin' Barbies?


    Summary of this ramble: You're not a Nazi - you're a PARENT!

  17. Did you also want a snake when you were a little girl? I think that's so cute. Maybe she can test-drive one (borrow) for a while and see how it works out.

  18. I don't have kids, but I definitely agree that minors and their internet use should be monitored by their parents and other caring adults. You're just being a good parent.

  19. Anonymous2:13 PM

    Don't feel bad for doing what's best for your daughter. Sounds to me like you're doing the right things for the right reasons.

  20. Anonymous3:01 PM

    Good for you, PBW. I moniter my 14 yr old. He's a great kid and I'm proud of the responsibility he takes in his actions. But he's still a teenager. All it takes is one misstep. And he isn't the one I'm necessarily worried about.
    On the other hand, my 8 yr old is very limited in his computer use. I'd rather he go outside and play. Or read a book.

  21. You go, Sheila. You're doing what you need to do to protect your children. :)


  22. Since when is being a responsible parent consider akin to being a 'nazi'?

    The problem today is that too many parents are using the computer as a baby-sitter and have no idea what sites they're going to or they're chatting with.

    When it comes to predators on the internet, there is only one way to keep kids safe, and that's no access. The alternative is parental responsibility.

    Thumbs waaayyy up there, PBW, for teaching your kids trust and honesty.

  23. Monster Rancher? That sounds interesting.

    Snakes and bunnies...not necessarily a match made in heaven, unless you're the snake.

    Personal internet in her room? Maybe when she's old and in a public place in the house instead of her room--with all the other caveats you employ (not because you don't trust her, either). But I'm archaic and think kids shouldn't necessarily have TVs, VCRs, and game machines in their room either. Clock radios--no problem; you can place the responsibility for getting up in the morning on them. Of course, if her brother already has it, and they have similar maturity levels, that would be a more equitable guideline for family fairness than my arbitrary curmudgeonliness.

  24. I have a bunny. He's a sweetheart. But... getting a bunny and a puppy at the same time might be really rough on the bun. If it's a house rabbit, you'll want to let it out on a regular basis, and puppies tend to yap and chase bunnies. Whenever my BILs bring their dogs to our house, they chase the bun back and forth in his cage (on the floor) until we take the cage out of the house entirely. These are nice, calm, older dogs that just go ballistic at the sight of the bunny. The bun doesn't like them much, either.

  25. Oddly enough, my 10-year-old has never used the internet to look for nude photos or sex info, has never visited a chat room, has never searched our bedroom for . . . um, stuff, and knocks before charging into our bedroom late at night. (Why? Because we managed to convince him it would scar him forever if he walked in on us having sex.)

    I'd get her the snake. A nice, big, fat one who will eat the pet bunny. That way, you'll only have two additional pets to worry about. (Keep the sheltie away from the snake. Constrictors absolutely lurve the taste of dog.)

    I'm going to get myself banned from your site, aren't I?

  26. Anonymous1:23 AM

    I've had unrestricted access to the internet since I was thirteen. I'm seventeen now.

    I won't lie; I've looked up porn and I've met people through the internet.

    I turned out okay. No bad experiences so far. But I'm definitely in a minority of people who are able to handle themselves appropriately on the internet. You're right to look out for your kids.

    My parents placed no limits on me at all. It was terrible. In the end, I had to look to outside influences and make many mistakes in order to raise myself.

    Monster Rancher is a weird game. I prefer Pokemon for my monster battling needs.

    Also, your child needs Kingdom Hearts if they don't have it already. Disney + Final Fantasy = outstanding!

    Or just get them a Gamecube and Zelda: Wind Waker.

    *Nintendo fanatic*

  27. Anonymous1:56 AM

    I think you're being a great parent. It's probably what I'd do if I had a ten year old who wanted to use the internet. ( gad. I have a high tolerance for online garbage and I've seen stuff I never wanted to.)

    Snakes: reptiles can be good pets, but perhaps a bearded dragon might be suitable in a couple years. I had turtles and lizardy things from about her age.

    ( monster rancher? SO want.)

  28. Anonymous7:32 AM

    God, people, you are all nazis :) It would never occur to my parents to monitor my private (e)mail just like it never occurred to them to listen in to my private phone calls. That's why they call it private :) Okay, maybe the trust had something with do with my Mensa-level IQ tests, but I don't think so.

    I wonder if it's maybe an American thing? In Europe, I noticed most parents are much more relaxed.

    They never censored my reading either. I wanted to read de Maupassant at the age of eight, I did. Although I didn't find his work as interesting as I probably would if it were some kind of forbidden fruit.

  29. Anonymous7:38 AM

    Bunnies are adorable, just like hamsters, but maybe there is one thing to consider... they don't live long. For a child who already experienced the trauma of losing a much-loved animal companion, having a pet whose life span is three years at best can be emotionally difficult.

  30. Rabbits live for far longer than three years (unless you're very unlucky!) Ours is 10 and counting. The secret to rabbit longevity is to feed mainly hay, not rabbit food. Rabbits' guts are designed to eat grass/hay, not cereal. And I'm a vet, so I know about rabbit guts ; ) If you get a snake, make sure to research vivarium conditions, although living in sunny, warm Florida will make it less tricky to keep a snake healthy than for people in England, where I live.

    Re Internet: agree. Our family PC is in the main room of the house, and staying there. We don't have any filters (children 11 and 7) but we keep an eye on what they're looking at at all times.
    My 11 year old's Christmas list is almost exactly the same as your daughter's, Sheila, only substitute poodle for sheltie and hamster for rabbit ;)

  31. Anonymous6:47 PM

    I persoally have two shelties. They are my favorite dog breed. I wouldn't give them up for all the tea in China, as the saying goes.

    They are wonderful with children, smart, and extremely loyal. They do need to be brushed regularly, but other than that, shelties are fairly low maintenace.

    Good Luck if you do get one.

  32. I don't think you're being a Nazi either. My kids surf with me in the room--though they look up mostly Pokemon, Neopets and NBA Jerseys.

    The kids are getting a computer but since I can't figure out how I want to network both computers (and control their content), they won't have internet access in their room.

    My son wants a PSP--yeah right. Not happening. And a dog. Not happening.

    I'd go for the bunny before the snake but then I'm phobic about snakes.


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