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The Internet Education

Rules for Teenage Internet Access? 2067

Posted by simoniker
from the just-checking-my-email dept.
Kent Brewster writes "Despite dire warnings, we've gone ahead and put computers with Internet access into our adolescent (11, 12, and 15-year-old) childrens' rooms. We've got a nebulous set of rules, which include several like these: Keep the door open when you're on the computer. Don't quickly exit from everything when we walk past. Don't ever lie to us about what you're doing. Unfortunately we've had instances where all of these rules - especially that last one - have been broken, so now we are looking at getting more specific. We'd be very interested in hearing from both sides of the fence: parents with Net-connected progeny, and those who are chafing under their rule. Parents, once you're past making the huge mistake of actually letting the kids have computers in their rooms, what's a reasonable set of guidlines? Non-parents, what are the rules that chap your hide the worst? Do they actually make a difference in your behavior, or do you just sneak past them anyway? Finally, and this is sort of a meta-question from an exasperated dad, does everybody lie about what they're doing on the Internet?"
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Rules for Teenage Internet Access?

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  • I'm 14... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Venesectrix (712553) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @11:27PM (#7484380)
    I've had unrestricted internet access since before i can remember. My parents have tried to restrict my access in many ways without actually having to pull the plug (because I still need it for school), but so far I've gotten too smart for them ;-). My parents are non-tech people, so they just enabled the mcafee privacy something that needs a password to get on the internet. No problem, all I need to do is control-alt-delete it and I'm in. They also tried imposing Internet Explorer's restrict-certain-websites thing, but there are numerous ways to get around something like that (I downloaded firebird, and even if I was forced to use Internet Explorer I could just route my connection through a proxy server :P).
  • Squid (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zak3056 (69287) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @11:27PM (#7484382) Journal
    Since you've got three machines connected to what I assume is a broadband connection of some kind, I'm also going to assume you have some kind of router/firewall in place already.

    Rip it out and replace it with an old pentium running some flavor of linux, BSD, whatever you're comfortable with, and set up Squid on the box as a transparent proxy.

    Your kids will not be able to bypass this--at least at the workstation level (I'm not going to speculate on the ability of your children to hack your firewall) and you'll have a log of EVERY URL visited from any machine on your network.

    Add something like Webalizer to make the log files more friendly, and you're done.

  • by infestedsenses (699259) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @11:30PM (#7484404) Homepage

    We have unlimited access at home, each of us kids have our own computer (3 of us, me being the oldest "kid" at 21, the youngest is currently 15), plus my dad has a few PCs and a central server for the home network (6 or 7 PCs in total). None of us have been damaged by what we have seen on the internet.

    To protect your kids from stuff on the net we all deem "evil", such as unsolicited email containing fraud scams and porn, teach them how to identify it instead of blocking it from them. If you want your kids to walk on their own feet one day, help them see the world as it is. And about porn, I'm sure most of you (male) parents went looking how to get a copy of Playboy when you were the age. The net just makes the access a little easier.

  • by flogger (524072) <non@nonegiven> on Saturday November 15, 2003 @11:59PM (#7484638) Journal
    I don't want to preach; but, to me, the trust issue (as mentioned earlier) is the key to raising children. Trust them and let them know you trust them. But, children will screw up and loose that trust. Let them know that the trust is gone and let them know what it will take to get that trust back. And LET THEM EARN THE TRUST BACK. I have seen many parents that "give up" when a child becomes untrustworthy. When that happens, the child doesn't have anything to strive for in his/her parental relationship. Is this "Trust See-Saw" easy to handle? No, of course not.

    Let me get back to the topic: Start young with teaching children what is appropriate and inappropriate. (For the parents with teens, it may not be too late to start, but it will be tough if you have to convince you child that certain clothes he/she has been wearing for two years are now inappropriate.) Is it easy to discuss this with children? It shouldn;t be hard.

    Let me use a personal example: My son, at the time was age 9, went to spend the night at a friends house. While there they watched an austin powers movie. This came out in conversation a couple of days later. My wife and I were horrified that this happened, but we didn;t yell and hoot and holler. We asked about the movie and he told us about it (We had seen this movie a couple of years before at a friends house (Strange how things work out)) During this conversation we talked about attitudes toward women and sexuality. And we talked about whe we found certain things objectionable. But it wasn't a lecture. we were having a conversation and he understood why it was inapproriate when we had finished.

    You may say, "Bah, kids can't handle that kind of talk." Well, you'd be suprised. It you are honest and open with your children in ALL areas, they will learn and respond in this type of conversational enviornment. A few months ago, My son was at an overnight with a few friends and a movie was going to be shown. He asked what it was rated and got a couple of friends to go into another room and play cards (or a board game, I can;t remember. He's in bed now, or I would ask him). But I think that takes some maturity. Maturity that comes from learning how to think along the lines of what is appropriate and what is not.

    How does one get to a point where we can trust the kids to make good choices? As parents we should make good choices ourselves and explain these to the kids. Dinner is a great time for these discussions. And whenver something comes up, don;t hide it from the kids. Let them in one what is happeneing. Another example: A student from where I teach was kicked out of his house. We let him stay with use for a bit while things got straightened out. My children were, of course very curious about what was going on, and we told them about the neglect, abuse, and everything going on. My children were very welcoming and treated this person as a brother fot the time he was here. Since then, my son has volunteered his time at some charities in the area for other "transients."

    Again, bak to the topic: In the manner of the internet, as with all areas, be open and honest. When you are deleting spam from your email, there is a great learning experience for the kids. "Look at this junk. Enlarge your breasts..." and get into a discussion about the previlence of sexual attitudes in society. It works, kids listen, and they will understand. Yesterday, When I was playing my father-in-law on some online chess and my kids were helping out, I got an offer across AIM (Through trillian) to check out some girls webcam. (Yea right.) Well what a great learning experience about the inappropriateness of the internet. We even went to the link, and sure enough, it was filtered out.
    which leads me to...
    Don;t let children surf without proper filtering. All of our computers run through an E-Smith server [e-smith.org] (modified red-hat small office gateway and server) which runs an excellent free SquidGuard filter. This doesn't mean that you don;t t
  • by mark-t (151149) <[markt] [at] [lynx.bc.ca]> on Sunday November 16, 2003 @12:10AM (#7484723) Journal
    My folks were extremely strict... so I endeavored to become good at lying. But you know... every time I didn't do what my parents told me to do, it always eventually came down on me in one way or another.

    I am forever in their debt for being willing to help me back onto my feet when I know, in hindsight, I didn't deserve it, having totally ignored the benefits of their wisdom that they acquired having lived on this planet for 3 decades before I came along.

  • by be-fan (61476) on Sunday November 16, 2003 @12:14AM (#7484766)
    Try anything that'll connect to the edonkey network (overnet, mldonkey).

    Oh right. Like you weren't the least bit curious :)
  • Re:Squid (Score:3, Informative)

    by parkanoid (573952) on Sunday November 16, 2003 @12:40AM (#7484946)
    1) ssh quux@any_freely_availible_shell -L 1337:some_open_proxy:3128 (you can do the same with puTTY under windows, I believe)
    2) Set browser's proxy to localhost:1337
    3) Profit!

    Or just use a proxy with ssl support, like megaproxy. Anyone geeky enough to spend multiple hours a day browsing for entertainment will probably be savvy enough to bypass it once they know it's there.
    Installing it without their consent is even worse; your kid will NEVER trust you again if you do that. It's akin to putting a camera in his room, or listening in on his phone conversations.
  • Re:What type of kid? (Score:3, Informative)

    by damiam (409504) on Sunday November 16, 2003 @01:19AM (#7485193)
    I wasn't referring to you specifically. Anyone who sits in front of a computer 24/7 doesn't have a life. If you don't currently fit that description, then great, I'm not talking about you.

    There are a lot of great things to do that don't involve sitting at a computer, and kids should be exposed to them. Of course browsing /. and looking at porn have a place in a teenage nerd's life, but there should be more to it than that. I'd argue that any time you're skipping school to play Doom, there's something wrong.

  • Re:Trust them (Score:5, Informative)

    by spoonboy42 (146048) on Sunday November 16, 2003 @01:29AM (#7485239)

    Well, I find that being able to outsmart one's parents definitely provides a measure of privacy. Here's a few steps you can follow at home, kids (don't forget NOT to ask Mom and Dad's permission):

    1. If you have your own computer, install Linux. If your parents have ties to the NSA, better make that OpenBSD instead. The fact is that, unless one of your parents has a beer gut, wears t-shirts with slacks, and hasn't groomed their beard in a couple of decades, they don't know how to use UNIX. You could leave it logged in as root all the time, and they probably wouldn't know what the hell was going on (not that I'm suggesting you do that. Use strong passwords!).

    2. Encrypt your data. You can do this on your own machine or the family one, doesn't matter. GPG is available for Windows, Mac, and loads of Unices. It's also a simple, unobtrusive command-line tool that you can use to pretty well scramble anything.

    3. Hide your files. On UNIX machines where you have root, chown them to root, then put them in a directory that only root can read (su to retrieve them). If you don't have root on a UNIX box, at least give them the standard '.' prefix. In windows, I recommend tacking on a ".sys" extension and hiding them somewhere in the C:\WINDOWS tree. As far as Macs go, just use the ol' unix '.' trick, and Finder will be none the wiser (I think, I don't have a Mac to test this on).

    4. Browse anonymously. Back when anonymizer was free, it was a great solution. Nowadays, you'll probably need a friend to set up a server in a safe, uncensored environment. I recommend school buddies with apathetic/permissive/hippie/workaholic parents, as this lessens the likelyhood that you'll run into trouble. A dedicated *nix server with a simple redirector CGI would be nice, but for all the legions of windows users out there, this [peacefire.org] would appear to be an excellent option.

    5. Cover your tracks. Clear browser history. On Windows, clear the list of recently accessed documents. If you have root on a UNIX box, flush the logs.

    6. Encrypt transfers. Enigmail for mozilla and the encryption plugin for gaim are your friends.

    7. Make your data look innocuous. Chatting with some friends on IM? Why not chat in Arabic (if you're on an unecrypted connection, be aware that this method reduces the possibility for parental-snooping, but increases the likelyhood of unconstitutional racial profiling. You've been warned). If you don't have the time or inclination to learn a foreign language, at least learn ROT-13. ROT-13 is so simple that, after a few weeks of practice, the overhead for conversing in it online gets to be pretty low. Keep in mind that it's by no means secure, but it prevents parents from catching naughty words with their peripheral vision. If your friends aren't as "safety-conscious" as you, you can probably write a quick script to do ROT-13 on the fly to incoming messages. Learning to do RSA in your head would be truly impressive (I can do it with small keys with pen and paper, but nothing's stopping you short of the computational limit of the human brain)

    The moral of this story is that clever children can cheat their way out of a lot of parental and societal rules. When I was living at home, I used some of the methods above to keep certain data safe (e.g. IMs with my girlfriend), but curiously, I didn't use it to browse porn and the like. The reason? My parents didn't constantly snoop to make sure I wasn't breaking the rules, they just raised me with the conviction that sexual intimacy is a beautiful thing between two people, and that commercial exploitation cheapens that, and they trusted me to make the right choices when they weren't around. If you never give your kids a chance to make bad decisions, they'll never learn how to make good ones.

  • Re:Ask slashdot.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zak3056 (69287) on Sunday November 16, 2003 @01:35AM (#7485273) Journal
    Isn't this something that Slashdot should not be attempting to answer? How many of the slashdot readers can say that they are successfully raising a child? How many can say to this parent what they did correctly?

    Personally, I wouldn't consult slashdot for anything family related. I think it's just plain silly to ask a bunch of nerds and geeks like me about how to raise your kid. It's like asking your kids what you should do with their computer.


    Yes, it's a well known fact that since nerds and geeks never have sex, they can't be parents.

    Seriously though, there's a few hundred thousand people (maybe a few million at the point, I don't keep up and the number of registrants) that read and post to this site. You don't think at least SOME of them are currently or in the past have raised children? Even successfully?

  • Fair enough (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Tyro (247333) on Sunday November 16, 2003 @02:13AM (#7485477)
    I may have given the wrong impression with my "big brother" comment. I'm not talking about a keyghost on every computer and hidden cameras... I'm talking about a simple proxy that keeps an eye on traffic, IPs, etc. The internet can be a pretty sick place, and I'd like to know if my kids are swimming in a cesspool. But to be fair, even the old BBS days had their share of the seedier side of life (the older posters here probably remember those days). That stuff has always been out there, the difference is that it's much easier to access via the net... a bona-fide shop of horrors is just a click away.

    It's about earning trust. Reliability has to be proven and established, preferably via some kind of track record, or trial period (one the child may or may not know about). Give them one warning, just to let them know you are watching, then lower the boom, and for God's sake FOLLOW THROUGH.

    Consider the alternatives...

  • Re:Trust them (Score:2, Informative)

    by mcbridematt (544099) on Sunday November 16, 2003 @03:25AM (#7485821) Homepage Journal
    As a teenager, I don't want people barging into my life.

    If my parents want to know what the fruck I am doing, they can shut up.

    I should have a right to keep myself to myself.

    CensorWare sucks.

    The school admin banned Eric S. Raymonds site just because I d/l'ed some big PowerPoint about SCO's fraudulent actions. Not suprising since they are a M$ shop. I had to waste a few kilobytes on an email to the smartass I.T admin telling him that "This content is NOT questionable".

    Also, while I was doing an assingment into drug addiction, several useful sites were blocked, and I had to access them from home. Uhh, I'd rather be running "apt-get dist-upgrade" on my home boxes, not surfing for info about drugs.
  • Re:Trust them (Score:2, Informative)

    by Penguin's Advocate (126803) on Sunday November 16, 2003 @04:58AM (#7486117)
    A mortgage on a $60,000 house (which is what is was) is under $300 a month, that's how I bought said house. It's actually cheaper than renting.
  • by Daytona955i (448665) <flynnguy24@noSPAm.yahoo.com> on Sunday November 16, 2003 @02:31PM (#7488197)
    When I was a teenager I was on all the BBSes, downloading Warez and looking at porn. Once the I got internet access newsgroups were always a good spot.

    I found all sorts of things, some disgusting that I quickly deleted, other things interesting that I never really wanted to try (like how to build a bomb).

    I had almost no parental control. My single mother didn't have a clue about computers (though she did write her yearly christmas letter on Word Perfect! and used the computer to print out labels) Sure the computer was in the livingroom but there were times when I would get home from school and no one was home and she never really read what was on the screen. She certainly didn't know anything about warez and pirating software. Her biggest concern was that I was tying up the phone line.

    However, she did spend time with me and taught me right and wrong. She gave me the knowledge and ability to make my own decisions. While I'm sure she wouldn't approve of some things, I think I was better prepared than most when I went away to college. While I brewed beer in the dorms while underage, I didn't get hammered all the time and I've never done drugs. However, leading a sheltered life only causes people to rebel when they get away from their parents for the first time. In college, no one is there to watch over them. The most colleges do is sometime block certain filesharing ports because of lawsuits.

    Let them have a little privacy and a little fun now so they don't explode when the get out on their own. But most importantly, spend some time with them and set a good example, it makes more of an impression than you'd think.
  • Re:Trust them (Score:3, Informative)

    by jfmiller (119037) * on Monday November 17, 2003 @06:29AM (#7492057) Homepage Journal
    Congratulations,

    It is always inspiring to hear of someone who is knows what they believe and lives according to their beliefs.

    When you say you were "raised not to drink, smoke, do drugs, or have sex outside of marriage" I can assume that your parents talked about sex, drugs, drinking and smoking with you in a way that meant something to you. I'm also willing to bet that they knew you were listening, and that meant that there was an element of trust in your relationship.

    I would fall further down this slippery slope and go so far as to say that this element of trust meant you got the opportunity to live out your morals without your parents watching over you shoulder constantly. Unless I miss my guess, your parents knew about what was going on in your life because you told them about it and asked for their advice not because they wached ever action you took.

    Now, consider what what it would be like if instead of an open and trusting communication with your parents, you were simply given a set of rules (don't drink, don't smoke, don't have sex) and were watch so closely by your parents that you had to opportunity to consider doing otherwise. Would you have the strong moral convictions you are now able to share with others, or would there simply be a set or rules that might be broken if not for your parents.

    For many people, going to college simply removes the enforcer to a set of rules with no moral backing. When I wrote last night I had two particular people in mind who were in just that situation. One ended up dropping out of school when his girlfriend got pregnant, the other was nearly killed at a frat party by alcohol poising. Both were very nice people with good grades and lots of talent. Neither understood why they shouldn't drink or have sex out of wedlock, only that their parents would not even give them the opportunity.

    A thought for you, no one goes out looking to sin. Sin happened when the opportunity to transgress Gods will is not countered by the moral choice to do otherwise. I worry that like my two friends the parent in the above post is the enforcer of a set of rules that need to be checked on and reinforced instead of the honored parent who can impart not just rules and consequences but understanding, communication and trust.

    I used an extreme example because it was the theme of many of the posts here and because I could not help hearing the the original post in the voice of the parent of one of the two people I mentioned. There is however a far less extreme example that is far more common. How many of your friends from high school who attended church regularly with there parents still go as adults? In most Christian tradition the number is 25% or less. For the other 75% or more do you think gathering in the LORD's name on Sunday was a moral value or an enforced rule?

    Faith is not a set of rules and morality is not something that can be legislated by governments or parents. I try to do the same thing I'll bet you campus Christian group did, encourage the people I am with to understand their faith and do everything in my power to support them in living out that faith.

    JFMILLER

If a subordinate asks you a pertinent question, look at him as if he had lost his senses. When he looks down, paraphrase the question back at him.

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