Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Persuasion 101

We're pretty strict about the kids using the internet, and have one safeguarded terminal and account for both to share. I use a timer and allow them one hour intervals. I monitor their online activities with spot checks and have regular talks with them about what they're doing, what are appropriate activities and what aren't.

My eleven-year-old daughter has been asking to have the internet enabled on her own computer in her bedroom for a couple of months now, and decided to put her arguments on paper. Thus I was recently served with this masterpiece (verbatim, 100% her spelling and wording):

101 Reasons why I should have the internet on my computer
by Kathy

1. I need it for school projects.
2. I'm old enough to have the internet.
3. I'm a responsible kid, aren't I?
4. All of my peers have it on their own computer.
5. [Her favorite web site] is a good place to learn.
6. It's only fair.
7. It's the only thing on my wish list.
8. I promise I won't spend too long on it every day.
9. I will not abuse it.
10. I know HTML and I can do really good things on the internet.
11. I promise not to go on e-bay or any selling site.
12. Pretty please! With 1000 cherries on top of vanilla fudge swirl ice cream!?
13. Man I'm running out of ideas!
14. It's fast and reliable!
15. Cause you love me.
16. You know you want to.
17. I will pay for it.
18. I'll be good for a year.
19. I'll do anything!
20. I can't believe I made it to 20! Oh well 81 things to go!....I think.
21. Why can't I have it?
22. It's better and cheaper than a snake, the only other thing on my list and the internet won't eat you!
23. I'll take my shots like a big girl! [Mom note: by shots she means her immunizations at the pediatrician's, which she hates]
24. I'll kiss your feet! (No I won't)
25. I'll brush my teeth every day 3 times a day.
26. I'll give you a piece of hard candy.
27. Because it's the only thing my computer is missing.
28. I love [her favorite web site] and I really need to [activity on her favorite web site] without my brother bothering me.
29. You won't have to listen to us complain about who has to go on the internet first.
30. 1 word: Silence.
31. I have nothing else to do.
32. I have a graphics site that needs me to make layouts and tend to it every day.
33. 2 words: pretty-please.
34. I also need paint shop pro.
35. Ok, I'm out of ideas, time to go to begging.
36. PLEASE!!!!!!! I NEED IT BAD!!!!!!!
37. Ok I'm done begging.
38. What to write! What to write!!
39. I'll do my homework 5 times in a row for five days, hey! It's the 555 deal at pizza hut!!!
40. What should I write....*falls asleep*...yhtuhhhhhffhffffhhhhgffgfgfhhg...*Huh!*
41. I'll bake you a cake! Hey! I rhyme! Bake-cake? You don't get it do you....
42. Ok back to begging.
43. Can I have it.
44. Can I have it.
45. Can I have it.
46. Can I have it.
47. Can I have it.
48. Can I have it.
49. Can I have it.
50. Can I have it.
51. Can I have it.
52. Can I have it.
53. Can I have it.
54. Can I have it.
55. Ok done begging, wow 2nd page already!
56. Goooo 2nd page!
57. Woo Hoo!
58. Think Me think!!
59. Hmmmmm....Ah,, not that.....hmmmm....
60. I love it when I run out of ideas.
61. I question: to beg or to sit here babbling like an idiot, I chose sit here babbling like an idiot.
62. Did you know I love to talk about nothing?
63. I do it all the time.
64. It's fun.
65. Can I go to bed now?
66. Ah ha! Got something.
67. I'll do the laundry.
68. I'll do the dishes.
69. I'll pick up cat poop.
70. I'll walk the dog.
71. I'll walk the cat.
72. I'll take care of my hamster.
73. I'll teach the dog to say: "Ruy Rathy rhe rinternet"
74. I'll raise money for charity.
75. I will love you.
76. I'll even walk my hamster.
77. I'll buy breakfast.
78. I'll cook breakfast.
79. I'll buy lunch.
80. I'll make lunch.
81. I'll buy dinner.
82. I'll make dinner.
83. Coffee anyone? Not until I see [her favorite web site] on my computer!
86. I'll give you a dollar.
87. I'll give you 20 dollars.
88. Hmmmm....
89. Dad will not let me use his e-mail so I cannot give my friends the [activity on her favorite web site.]
90. WOW I made it to 90!!! next page!
91. I will not bother you.
92. I will not fight with my brother.
93. I promise I will be respectful.
94. I will do my best in school.
95. I won't spent all of my time on the internet.
96. I will put away my clothes when you tell me to.
97. I'll get off when you tell me to, without me fearing that my brother will get on without telling.
98. I'll do the dishes and laundry for 2 years.
99. I'll help you out a lot.
100. I'll cook with you.
101. And most importantly, it's because I really want to have my own privacy, on my own internet, without having to fear of my brother ruining my [favorite web site] account, or doing something to my account that is in reversible to it, ruining it forever, and that is 101 reasons why I should have my own internet. Thank you for understanding.

It's funny and a bit eerie (she's managed to counter every single objection I had against giving her independent internet access.) All chuckles aside, it took my daughter two days to compose this and type it up.

On her own she's taught herself how to type, and how to code with HTML from internet tutorial sites, and now volunteers to design web pages for other kids she knows. She's not just playing. She's interacting, learning, and growing. I want to encourage that as much as possible -- but I have to keep her safe, too.

Much to think about.


  1. Anonymous1:17 AM

    75 is the best.

    She is a very smart little girl. You must be proud. My boy is 10 and is only interested in soccer. His little brother is like daddy, he likes making stories as well.

  2. I like #30 best. Really, really smart kid.

  3. The eerie thing is, S., she sounds just like YOU! The turns of phrase, the humour, the well-constructed arguments, the cleverness... Damn, you can't help but be proud of a kid like that.

  4. My 11-year-old daughter has the internet in her bedroom, but it goes via a linux proxy server in my office. That server knows the unique address of her network card and restricts her to a set of white-listed sites (which I can add to.)
    She can send email, but messages to her come to my PC first so I can forward them. She doesn't have any online chat.
    The proxy server also has two levels of net filtering (squidguard and dansguardian) so even if something on the whitelist goes bad, the filters will still block it.
    She starts high school next year, and I told her I'd relax the filtering a little at that time. I'll bypass the whitelist for her, but leave the word filtering. (Her 8 year old sister has the same setup, by the way.)

  5. She's brilliant. How can you say no?

    My kids have always had unrestricted use. I think they each got their own computers when they were about eleven. The oldest is now 24 and the younger is 16.

    One thing I like about AIM chat (and always have) is that I can use it to communicate with them. Color me lazy, but it's very easy to log on and write "could you turn down the TV" without having to get up and go ask. Or log on quick to ask my daughter (who doesn't live here anymore) a question, or shoot her a URL and then discuss it. I was also able to use AIM to chat with my Boy when I was at National (he does better on AIM than on the phone just because he's him).

    I haven't worried about them because both of them have always had a strong sense of self-preservation and loads of common sense, plus neither have really wanted to do more than homework, chat with friends, and connect with anime and manga interests. Both have learned to code HTML and they do like to blog, but then they are both writers. And both discuss thiings with me when they feel that they need to.

    So for us it has been positive.

  6. Huh. simon beat me to my comment! The only other thing I'd add is a site logging mechanism. If the kids know you'll KNOW where they go, they'll be less likely sneak around (works in real life as online).

    It must be frustrating when the kids beat you at your own game. :-) I can say that because mine is only 2 years old...

  7. That girl is going to take over the world.
    Just you watch.
    Be afraid.

  8. 101 was the clincher. She's 11, making her by today's standards an early teenager.

    This means, she needs privacy to do "teenage girl online stuff", and to get information on growing up, boys etc etc from sources other than kin and school, if only to get an outside perspective.

    Also, it sounds as if you've equipped her well for the wider world, which she'll enter sooner than you think. At least this way, she gets an extended period with training wheels.

    On another tack, I hope you've taught her to throw a proper punch.

  9. Anonymous5:39 AM

    That is so cool. I'd have caved in by the mid 20s.

    Reading this, the fact that there was even something to read, let alone that it was hilarious and well argued, makes me think she'll be fine. But it's great that you're so protective and concerned for her, I wish more parents actually thought like that, instead of just handing over anything and everything, and letting them run wild. Basically, she sounds cool, and so do you.

    If it comes to a vote, I say hand it over!

  10. I have a son about your daughter's age who has a computer that is not 'net-enabled. He's not yet asked for 'net access, but I'd go ahead and put a card in his if:

    A) I also got Net Nanny software

    B) Did the timer thing and checked up on him frequently.

    The other option would be to get him a wireless laptop and insist that he do his surfing in a public area, but I think that's a bit on the extravagant side for a young kid until the price of computers drops a bit more.

  11. We use this for the kid's computer. It's an internet timer and computer monitoring system. I've looked at a lot of these, and I like this one because of the ease of use and configuration.

    Good luck--your daughter sounds like quite the negociator!


  12. Anonymous8:05 AM

    I totally agree with Jaye; she does sound like you PBW! And her wit and maturity... *shakes head in awe* I could wish I can write something like that when I was 11.

    Seriously, she sounds really, really smart. Definitely smart enough for internet. She would probably take over the Internet too.

  13. Anonymous8:28 AM

    Maybe not a popular perspective, but a lot of those "arguments" were ones I used to beg things out of my parents - most of that list is stock begging material (and none of it actually worked). I would promise all sorts of chores and favors, and it was annoying when my parents actually held me to them (though it taught me not to volunteer for things I'm not willing to follow through on). It never really swayed them: I never got a horse, I never got a car, I never got to stay out late, I never got to go to unsupervised parties, and I never got out of mowing the lawn every week.

    I'll admit that I'm not a parent, but this wouldn't work for me. It's a lot of time and effort that could go into talking with a parent about a "sliding scale" of responsibility. Right now, she gets one hour - maybe start with asking for more time, especially in relation to helping with school work. Or getting more time in exchange for those promised chores. It's the method my parents used with the four of us. We could lay out plans to get what we wanted, but we had to pull our weight, too. And it was gradual, over time, so Mom and Dad were convinced that, yes, we were serious.

    As I said, though, I'm not a parent, so this is all simply what I plan to do when/if I become a parent.

  14. Looks like she's your kid. I have a mini-me, too.

  15. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Sounds like you have a very bright child, who has inherited her mother's way of thinking. I'll bet she gets her internet. With the programs that they have now, supervision is still possible.

  16. That's a pretty impressive list.

    I'm trying to think of a compromise here - maybe you could let her have it, but with blocking software, and with the caveat that (since you won't be right there to see what she's doing) you'll be checking the history to see where she's going.

    Or you could let her have it, but move her computer somewhere else - if there's another place in the house that it could go. (I got my own computer when I was 12, which was hooked up to the internet, but wasn't allowed to have it in my room until I was 16 or so.)

  17. My nine-year-old mini-me's computer is adjacent to mine. She's quiet on it (blessed silence) and I can monitor her activities by turning my head. She generally wants to be online when I'm also online or writing. I tell her to go and do something else when I think she's been on there long enough.

    I wouldn't allow her to be online alone in her room at nine.

  18. Anonymous9:01 AM

    Love #30

    She's a smart girl :p

  19. "I will even walk my hamster."

    This nearly killed me. God love a child with a sense of humor and the drive to go after what she wants in life.

    Good luck with your decision-making, it never gets any easier I guess.

  20. 11?

    Good gosh. Girls used to be married and having babies at that age years ago (many, of course)

    Get some good monitoring software (that she can't crack) and set her free.

    All young girls need to chat endlessly with their friends by 11, either on the phone or online.

    Mine is 7 and has access (supervised) for 30 minute periods every other day (yes, she keeps meticulous track) and loves the Teletubbies BBC site.

    Okay, I like it too.

  21. 22, 24, and 30 were priceless!

    Plus, any child willing to pick up cat poop has got to be serious!

    Whatever you decide, I'm sure it will be fair, and with her best interest in mind. Just know that you have a hearty congratulations in order when she's old enough to realize what a bright, and clever child you raised.

  22. I can totally relate to 101, I have a brother, too. :)

    You already do the most important thing: talk with your kids about what to do on the net and what not. If you use some safeguard for her bedroom computer, still restrict her time and check her activities, where's the problem? The only difference would be that she has her own account her brother can't fiddle with.

    And hold her to something on the list she says she'll do. Like, 'you do clean the cat litter every day. Internet time still is an hour but you can buy one extra hour/day by also doing the dishes or walking the dog... something like that.' A contract, so to speak.

    If you haven't done that already, you may also look into the ways pervs sneak into kid chatrooms, and talk to her about spotting these. My nephew (13 at that time) once met some weird guy online but had enough sense to send me an email (his father was absent and his mother knows zero about the internet) asking me if that chat member was indeed weird and what to do about him. We got that guy kicked in no time. :)

    The important point is that your daughter feels she can trust you not to close the net in case she asks you about online people she thinks are acting strangely (like asking if she's already got boobies), because it is not her fault.

    My 2 cents :)

  23. Haha, she will love you! how can you say no to that?

  24. i was laughing so hard by the time i got to 101!! in writing she sounds just like you.

  25. Please thank her for making my day. What a hoot!

  26. I'm fighting the same thing over here, with the same arguements and rebuttals. And they're negotiating for cell phones. I sympathize.

    How much longer do you think you'll hold out? Mine are taking wagers on me.

  27. Anonymous11:02 AM

    If you let her do it, set the computer up to where you can see it from the hall and she has to keep the door open.

    Brother won't be able to bug her nearly as much, and with the door open, she won't be as likely to do anything that she isn't already doing.

    I fought against my parents about computer stuff for years. They hated RPG games and banned them. I just snuck around and did them at other places. Kids are way sneakier than parents. I think we have to let them do what they want while finding ways to make sure they aren't doing anything dangerous.

    Good luck.

  28. Anonymous11:06 AM

    I'm sixteen, and I have had internet in my room since I was fifteen--but I never thought to make an awesome list like this.

    My parents have always made sure that I know how to stay safe on the internet, and my only restrictions are pretty much no chat rooms or talking to people that I don't know. No giving out personal information and no staying locked in my room 24/7.

    As a graphics designer, I can say that yes personal internet connection is the best thing that can ever happen to your graphics site. Mine has been pushed to the side by schoolwork recently, but I still like to code in my spare time.

    And the brother bit--totally true. My brother's 13, and just LOVES to be in my business. Fortunately teaching him that I have photoshop and access to the family photos curbed that a bit :) Plus I know HTML and the password to his myspace.

    But all positives aside, it's defninitely a decision that needs to be made based on how trustworthy your kid is. My brother won't get internet until he moves out.

    Tell your daughter she's a genius for me and I'm going to try to make one of these lists to get a dog or a cat. She already gave me one, I'll scoop the poop! I can't believe I'm the only one in my house that feels the lack of dog. I keep waiting for her to come running around the corner, and then she doesn't and I have to think, oh, yeah...

    Now I'm off to use the internet to work on the stupid AP summer work for history I have to do...

  29. I'd probably discuss the list with her to make sure she knew which promises were simply impossible to keep (good for a whole year? Come on.), which ones are simply inappropriate (giving or witholding love), and laugh with her on the truly funny ones (it won't eat you, implying the snake would -- I loved it).

    Before beginning the discussion, I'd have the following decided:

    1) Is she at the age where I'm comfortable granting her wish -- she does sound reasonably mature, and she has very practical reasons included in this list. If not, what age? (I had several things I had to wait until I was "18 and living on my own" before I could get/do, and I lived with that. Be careful how you use this one -- I've done or gotten everything I had to wait until that age before I could do -- St Bernards, motorcycles, trucks, probably a few things I've forgotten).

    2) Do I have the technology available that I know how to use to implement safeguards I feel are important to granting her the privacy wish -- including the way to turn off access as a disciplinary tool if ever needed?

    3) What level of monitoring is appropriate for her current age and as she gets older? What are the terms for earning more unrestricted access?

    Once you're comfortable with this in your heart, you'll be able to set the terms (perhaps let her participate in negotiating them -- you might be surprised at what she offers as acceptable--as long as you know what you're willing to let her have) and enforce them. She'll also know what to expect and the consequences for violating them.

    This is probably preaching to the choir -- you sound as if you work similarly with the kids already.

    Maybe a 12th birthday wish granting? Would that give time to research and implement safeguards?

  30. Anonymous2:49 PM

    Wow. Parenting. What a concept. Not too many people practice it these days. Hence the decline of the empire.

    But I digress.

    She sounds like a intelligent and clever little girl. But sometimes not even intelligent and clever little girls get what they want!

    Sad but true.


    PS Back to anonymous because I can't remember my log in. :-P

  31. Anonymous4:15 PM

    As a parent I can most definitely understand your hesitation. I don't envy your decision.

    I can't believe she is only 11 years old! That list is hilarious. Very entertaining. LOL

  32. We've always allowed our kids online. Just not in their rooms alone. That goes beyond what we would allow. We have a computer room and we're all in there together, so if there's any problems we are there to help them through it.

    I don't let them have their own email until they are 12 or 13, when they can handle passwords and know what they can answer and what they should delete. If they need to do any communicating via email it has to go through me.

    She's making her own website, huh? Pretty cool.

  33. I'm glad i'm not the only one who thought this sounded a lot like a list PBW would make.

    That request would be a hard one to say no to.

    I guess it all boils down to whether or not you know she'll understand the rules that are laid down and you know she'll follow them.

  34. Great list! Very imaginative and funny.

    We are the original horrible parents with no TV or computers allowed in the bedrooms.

    We have two PCs which are located in a public part of the house and a laptop. My two youngest, 16 and 12 have their own accounts with different age associated restrictions. They also have a time limit. Since they aren't readers they can earn extra computer/game time by reading.

    Even savy 11 year olds can be lured into bad decisions so my suggestion would be to let her have her own account and to increase her time limit on the current computer. The time limit could vary from weekends to weekdays and she would have to keep up with her chores.

    Oh yeah, my kids have assigned chores and many of the things she listed as enticements my kids have to do anyway.


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