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To follow on from this question about TVs in a child's room, perhaps even more contentious is children having their own PC/device with internet access in the bedroom.

Would you/have you let your children have their own PC with internet access and at what age would it be appropriate?

asked 27 Feb '10, 17:43

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Rich Seller
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Really interesting answers, makes me wonder whether friends "computer access" should also be monitored and discussed with friends parents, because otherwise the kids will have access to the exact thing that parents are trying to avoid??

(28 Feb '10, 20:59) Emi

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Well, this is one of the instances where my principles fell down under practical useage.

Along with no TV's in the bedrooms (which I've pretty much been able to stick too, modified, of course) I also had a rule about no computers anywhere but in common areas. (The desktop is in our dining room.) But, my oldest will be 18 in just over a month, and where we live 18 is a full adult with all responsibilites and priviledges, voting, drinking, the whole deal.

So... when my ex bought him a laptop with wireless and a wireless router for my computer shortly after he turned 17 we had a long discussion about internet usage in his bedroom.

About how with the Advanced Placement courses he was taking to prepare for University he needed to access the internet when he was doing his homework and it would be much easier for him to do that in his room. How with the online games he played with his online friends from all over the world (which he had been playing in the common areas of our houses for years, and we were completely aware of), it would be less distracting all around if he could play them within reason in his room.

We had several looong discussions about safety (in which he also gave me some pointers, I love having tech-savy kids!) and several frank discussion about porn, in which I told both him and his brother that porn is to real sex what action movies are to real life and we all spent a week researching the short and long term implications of exposure to pornography on people's emotional wellbeing. (Which was an extension of a conversation we've been having since they started Junior High, most kids seem to be exposed to porn at about that age now, which is sooo young, we just delved deeper into the subject than we had before.)

We discussed love, and respect, and trust. We discussed the implications of doing things that damaged that respect and trust, (and not just in terms of internet useage) and how repercussions, at least in your own heart, can last for years, even if the other person has forgiven you and forgotten all about it. (With suitable examples from their Mothers own early adulthood.)

And then I installed the wireless router, and set him loose, without supervision on the web, in his bedroom, and I just had to trust him to make good choices, because shortly most of what he gets up to will not be in any way under my control anymore, and if I havn't done my job properly up till now, we're screwed anyway.

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answered 28 Feb '10, 14:54

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Neen
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edited 10 Dec '10, 16:16

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mkcoehoorn
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I think the strong focus on talking about it (instead of just harsh monitoring and restrictions) make this a very valuable approach.

(01 Mar '10, 05:51) brandstaetter
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+1 for well thought out principles, including when to allow it, and for the frank discussion with the kid.

(01 Mar '10, 07:19) lgritz

Mine will use the family computer in a common room where I can keep an eye on what they are doing. If at some point I allow them to have a computer in their bedrooms, it will not have internet access.

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answered 27 Feb '10, 18:20

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mkcoehoorn
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I really like Neen's answer, and have the following to add:

I think an important thing about raising kids is allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them, as well as giving them the opportunity to become confident and competent, while still young enough for us to provide guidance and some degree of bailing them out of their blunders. The good thing about using computers is that they can be emotionally hurt, embarrassed, or do that to others, but really nothing compared to the kind of mistakes they can make with, say, automobiles or sex (the physical kind, I don't mean looking at pictures). Remember that kids typically drive in a fairly unsupervised way at 16, and that can actually get people killed. So it's important to keep perspective about the stakes with computers and not overstate the dangers.

As such, I'm not sure we do them favors by surveiling them intensely until just a few minutes prior to age of majority, then turning them completely loose. Sort of like how it's counter-productive to completely disallow them from dating, that just means they face adulthood with a severe deficit of emotional and other experience compared to those they will interact with. So I think a more gradual approach is necessary.

How's this for a plan:

  • Pre-teen: computers in common areas of the house (living room or highly trafficked areas) only, a fair degree of supervision over both content and time spent on it.

  • 13-15: unsupervised use or computer in room ok, but setting the router to not allow network traffic from their node after appropriate hours, and perhaps with web logging (though logs should be used only if something amiss is suspected, not used routinely to erode any sense of privacy). Still all dependent on it being a responsible kid and not interfering with schoolwork, socialization, or physical activity.

  • 16-17: time for them to learn responsibility and expect a right to privacy. No filters, but consequences for doing something stupid.

Of course, lots of age-appropriate talks all along about responsible computer behavior and all the irresponsible stuff people do that they should avoid.

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answered 01 Mar '10, 07:41

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That timeline is actually pretty close to how it really worked (sorta). I stopped paying attention and logging what they were doing on our desk-top looong before my oldest got his laptop and as they got older and were at home alone more etc. they had a fair amount of unsupervised time on it. It was just a "rule", you know, and I don't have a whole lot of hard and fast "rules" so I cherish the ones I've got and being a smidge stubborn I tend to make them work for it if they want them changed. (And we'd been having those conversations for years, they just got a lot more focused and intense.)

(01 Mar '10, 08:33) Neen
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Good points, also I think I would be rather concerned if my child were spending too much time sitting in front of the computer playing online games, whether that be in a common area or in his/her room.

(01 Mar '10, 09:23) Emi
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I think it is quite defensible to limit a childs (approx. until 16) computer time to a fixed amount per week, perhaps even enforcing it with software. During that time the internet usage is available, but logged.

(01 Mar '10, 10:52) brandstaetter
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Probably half the people in this forum spent "too much" time on a computer as kids (or engaged in other things adults thought frivolous) and managed to turn it into a career, so I'm leery of artificially limiting the time by hour. That's why I always say things like "dependent on it being a responsible kid and not interfering with schoolwork, socialization, or physical activity." It's about balance, not just hours. One hour a week is too much if they needed that hour to finish homework. Twenty hours a weeks is fine if they are very physically active, social, also read books, etc.

(03 Mar '10, 00:08) lgritz

No i will not let them have a computer in their bedrooms they will only have access to the internet supervised. I have a 13 year old niece who has a laptop in her room with a web cam, and was using it to send semi naked pics of herself, as you can imagine this has put me off. Plus i know how easy it is for porn to be found and wouldn't want the temptation there.

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answered 27 Feb '10, 19:58

Phil%20Seller's gravatar image

Phil Seller
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Any age if you can block bad websites

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answered 28 Feb '10, 17:43

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+1 Logical point in my opinion.

(28 Feb '10, 19:47) Emi
2

We all know that one can't block "bad" web sites, right? Not from anybody remotely tech-savvy, which we should assume teenagers are.

(01 Mar '10, 07:15) lgritz
1

and if your kid doesn't know how, one of their friends will, and will be thrilled to explain, complete with flow-charts and diagrams.

(01 Mar '10, 07:37) Neen

My husband decided to get our daughter an Asus Eee Pc series when she was just turning 4. She used to play on several childrens sites, and draw pictures.The Linux learning and drawing programs are great in my opinion.

The answers to one of the first questions I asked may also be of use for you.

My husband is responsible for all the IT stuff in our household and I am sure that he will take the necessary precautions regarding safe internet access, (as I am sure many of the parents on this site are)

I feel we have acted sensibly because even though Daddy is a programmer, (we have several desktops, laptops around our home (not to mention "android phones") and spends considerable time on his computer when at home, our daughter does NOT have an infatuation or an addiction with the computer or for the games and activities that it can be used for.

Pencils, paints, Lego, Jenga, Puzzles Dolls and Books still thrill her, as does her bicycle and ball.

I have had the opportunity to compare her behavior with children who have been exposed to computers much later and the difference is remarkable. They always seem to want to be on the computer, and the more the parents try and ration the usage the more the kids seems to crave it. I have even witnessed, time spent on the computer being used as a "punishment" with "no you are not going on that computer"

I am not sure I can give an age for internet access without parental safeguard, in fact this depends a lot on each individual child, family and environment.

In our case I do know that the little pink laptop sits on her desk in her bedroom, and if we both happen to be working on something in our office and she wants to join us, she will place it under her arm and come and join us, sitting at the end of my desk. If she has homework, we use my computer to research the topic together, and basically this is like using an encyclopedia.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Our daughter is currently 5 and a half years old.

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answered 28 Feb '10, 08:25

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edited 01 Mar '10, 07:37

I knew a father who let his teenage kids (high school in the US) have unfettered access... with the proviso that he was logging all the web-sites that they visited.

If he found anything that he didn't agree with, they had their internet access "grounded" for a week.

I believe he had a proxy server set up, which might be a bit more techno than people want to get at home.

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answered 01 Mar '10, 02:26

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Peter K.
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you just need trust in your child

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answered 10 Dec '10, 13:52

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tica
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Asked: 27 Feb '10, 17:43

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Last updated: 10 Dec '10, 16:16