Thursday, April 27, 2006

Good Ol' Fashioned Supervision

I remember predicting this sometime ago, when the church arsonists were caught, and they were associated with the evils of Facebook. Every time something goes wrong, people look for something to blame, and it's rarely the parents. It seems I was right to think that the Internet and online social networking would be the next big evil for the media to pounce on. Everywhere I look, I'm seeing stories where parents are warned about MySpace.com. Oh, the humanity!

Remember when all we had to worry about was Grand Theft Auto? And before that, remember when we only had to keep them away from Marilyn Manson? And before that...?

It doesn't begin with the young child and teenage years, either. My husband and I, still awaiting the birth of our first child, are already being bombarded with ways to keep our home safe for the baby. We've already been marketed to by a particular industry on ways that we can take what I like to call the Ron Popiel approach to parenting: "Set it and forget it."

  1. Put her in the play yard.
  2. Put special locks on all the cabinet doors.
  3. Put special gates up for every room of the house.

While these methods have some measure of usefulness, kids find ways to get around them, even in their toddling stage. And while I plan on a certain amount of common sense caution, like locking up medicines and cleaners, what if I simply just decided to just keep an eye on her? After all, most accidents when the parent has his/her back turned.

The same goes for these other, newer evils. Can your kids get into trouble on MySpace.com? Of course they can! They can also get into trouble at the grocery store if they don't know how to handle dealing with strangers. Can they be exposed to violence and foul language in movies, games, and online? Of course, but if you're worried about exposure, you may want to keep them out of school.

MySpace has legitimate uses, just as video games, television, and other experiences. My husband and I plan to set up a MySpace account for the baby as soon as she's born because it creates an easy (and free) way to share news, video clips, and pictures with realatives and friends. Video games can be educational and just plain fun without being dangerous. Same goes for television. The difference is, parents have to monitor what their child is doing while at the same time preparing them for what to expect should that watchful eye be temporarily blinded.

I'll never understand the concept of allowing children (including teens) to have so much electronic equipment in their bedrooms. You're asking for problems. I never had a television in my room until college, so if I wanted to watch a program or a movie or play a game, my parents would likely see what it was I was seeing. Same goes with the computer. But at the same time, they understood that my friend had a television and computer in her room, and if I went over there, I might not be supervised while using them. So they taught me things about how the world works, so that I would be prepared to handle a situation where someone I didn't know wanted to meet me. We also had open communication, so that if I ever stumbled upon a situation that I was unsure how to handle, I could simple ask my daddy.

My point is this. It's a dangerous world out there, and things are going to happen. Situations will arise. Your kids will be exposed to something you don't want them to be exposed to. There is no magical pill that will keep them safe. There is no magical "set it and forget it" button or filter or gadget that will supervise your kids for you. Instead, sometimes the old ways are best. Supervise your kids. Know where they are and what they're doing. But most importantly, make sure that both of you are prepared for when that fails.

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