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Communications Technology

Managing the Online Teenager? 189

Parenting Pains asks: "I've got two teenagers, whose peer group have 'discovered' the Internet over the course of this year. We've gone from two bright happy lively teenagers at the start of the year, to now having two people who rarely venture outdoors except under duress and are close to unbearable unless they're ensconced online with 'friends' on MSN for hours at a time. Over recent months, this has gone from mildly amusing to out of hand, with them spending up to 10-12 hours a day on weekends online with friends. Many Slashdot readers must have confronted this situation; how have you dealt with it, and what were the outcomes of what you did? Do you just let the kids stay online till they got sick of it, and how long did it take? Do you ban them from using MSN? Do you limit the number of hours they can be online?"
"When they're not online, they're grumpy, demanding, constantly nagging, etc. (i.e. normal teenagers) - frankly it's easier for us when they are online, but not for that many hours at a sitting.

We made a decision up front to trust their judgement and not monitor who they talk to and what they talk about, but I'm starting to question the wisdom of this right about now. Not for any specific reason; there's just a little nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me there's something wrong with this."
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Managing the Online Teenager?

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  • pr0n (Score:5, Funny)

    by austad ( 22163 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @12:52PM (#10909831) Homepage
    Introduce them to pr0n. That will keep them off IM.
    • No no no! Then they'll spend all day trying to find people on IM to swap pictures with or try to find "web cam buddies." Making teenagers hornier is a BAD idea... Instead, just adjust the monitor so that it hurts their eyes to look at it for more than an hour at a time. Long term damage? Maybe. But at least they'll be 4-eyed socialites instead of 20-20 outcasts. Either that or chop their hands off... that way IM *and* porno are both pointless...
    • Re:pr0n (Score:4, Interesting)

      by austad ( 22163 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:00PM (#10909886) Homepage
      Also realize that they probably have a ton of friends that use IM. If they only talk to each friend for a few mins, it could take up a large part of the day.

      Plus, IM is usually something I do when browsing the net and screwing around. If I find a neat link, I'll send it to a few friends, which usually results in a conversation about whatever it is. In any case, they are still being social. If they locked themselves in a dark room all day and didn't talk to anyone, it would be more cause for concern. Not everything people do on the net is bad. It's arguable that IM could help develop good communication skills too, as long as they aren't abbreviating every damn word.

      Honestly, I doubt they are doing anything questionable. IM seems to have replaced the phone that teens used to love so much.
  • by TykeClone ( 668449 ) * <TykeClone@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @12:52PM (#10909832) Homepage Journal
    After they're done with their chores.

    Just make sure to give them lots of chores.

    • I second that, but I also strongly suggest banning the household from both MSN and AOL.

      If you want them to develop computing skills get them shell accounts.
    • I agonized heavily, relentlessly, endlessly, hell, I'm still agonizing about this with my 9 year old son who has taken up the EverQuest addiction just when I was able to kick the habit. *shakes fist at sky* DAMN YOU EVERQUEST!

      As a result I have developed a weird mishmash of arbitrary rules and semi-biblical provisions which has served me well. OK, I'm lying, it hasn't served me well - but - it's a starting point. To wit:

      On the division of FREETIME it shall be thus:

      1/2 of the time shall be spent doing th
  • by MacBrave ( 247640 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @12:54PM (#10909843) Journal
    Do these teens have computers in their own rooms? Is so, you should strongly think about removing them.

    Only have 1-2 computers in your house with internet access and place them in 'common' areas. That way you can better monitor their online usage and curb it back.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That might work fine for 'normal' teens, but I would strongly recommend against it if they're of the 'geeky variety' (which he didn't say they were..)
      If I had no computer in my room when I was growing up, I have no idea where I would be today.
      Sure, sometimes I spent 7+ hours a day on it during the summer, but I'm also not out of highschool yet and am proficient in Perl, PHP, MySQL, and C++. I run Gentoo Linux servers, and make good money with technical jobs.
      Without a computer of my own, I would have never b
      • Have to agree with you. I'm 15 now, and last time i had to go without my computer (hardware failure), I started to behave very strangely.

        Yes, maybe sitting in the dark drinking coffee and staring at my subwoofer for hours at a time is a sign that I should cut back on the computer time.

        But we know it's not gonna happen. Things similar to this happen when I work on a computer without gcc. Without one at all......arrgghh.... it's horrible ;)
        • I was basically the same way when I was your age (I'm 25 now). Now I'm much worse. I must have all 3 of my physical computers (2 servers, 1 laptop) running, 2 VMWare servers running and an active internet connection. If the computers go down for any reason, I spend all the time needed to fix it. If my internet connection goes down, I pace the house.

          My wife thinks I'm crazy, but has learned to deal with it. The funny part is, she keeps hearing me talk about "uptime" but hasn't figured out that its a compute
    • Here's our family's approach to managing the computer:

      • the computer is in the family room, where everyone can see what you're doing
      • no computer access of any kind until you can read or write (this motivated the 3 younger, of 4, children to learn to read by their 5th birthdays)
      • weekdays, limit game-playing to 30 minutes per day (TV is also limited to 30 minutes per day); weekends, the limit is 60 minutes
      • no limit on amount of computer time used to do homework, write letters, write computer programs, reservin
      • We have a similar, public setup and similar limits, and we enforce them regularly. Works really well, and we don't need filterware and other such BS.

        In addition, I have disabled AOL messenger that came with our Mac and placed a general ban on IMing. Not that I police it much, but it deters enough. As a result, my kids have not yet developed the atrocious vocabulary and spelling you typically see on IM.

        My 16 year old girl has admin privileges on the family Mac, because I know I can trust her not to mess up
    • My parents' rules were very simple:

      1) I could use an old 486 however much I wanted, whenever I wanted, for whatever I wanted. Note that this computer didn't have a modem, and was situated in the family computer room, where anyone passing by could see the screen.
      2) I could use my parents' P133 whenever nobody else was, but I had to ask if I wanted to go online, as the modem shared a line with the phone.
      3) If I wanted to download porn, or other "disapproved" activities, I had to do so using a computer I pur
  • by numbski ( 515011 ) * <numbskiNO@SPAMhksilver.net> on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @12:56PM (#10909862) Homepage Journal
    I was going to say I was a teenager not so long ago myself, but I'm pushing 10 years hence now.

    Anyway, this will come off a bit odd, but buy a case of Bawls, and lan party with them.


    If they're taking an interest in online activities, my gut tells me the best thing you can do is get involved. Be active and supportive.

    True, getting outside and being active is important as well (perhaps join a gym, get into a workout regimine and encourage them to join you?), but if they're going to use the computer, make sure you have a part in it.

    As a side note, since teenagers seem to take some amount of joy in parental rebellion, they may actually wind up spending LESS time online, simply because you're taking an interest in their activities. :P

    Just some thoughts.
    • I am a teenager, roughly 17 years old. I am frequently on the computer.

      I was raised on the computer. I turned the computer on by myself at age 3 and made ran a program my father had found called Mandala (effectively pretty changing colors). I have been playing video games since the late 2's. My mother and father both worked involving computers for a fair while, and thus it has worn off on me, but they have shown them to me as a choice.

      I spend a good amount of time on the computer, and most of it is spen
    • True, getting outside and being active is important as well (perhaps join a gym, get into a workout regimine and encourage them to join you?)

      I recommend paintball. The field I go to has a $15-$25 fee to play all day (9-5 or so), and you will burn more calories than just about any other recreational activity.

      Martial arts are good too. I take ninjutsu on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

      I mention this because I've always disliked the idea of going to gyms, particularly when I was a teenager, but even then I would h
    • Excellent Comment.

      I would concur and also add that the original poster should just not worry. When I was in mid highscool I got access to the local college's VAX through a dialup connection... and discovered IRC. (Internet Relay Chat - a world wide live chat room system that predates MSN or "the Web" as you might commonly think of it.) For several months I would get home from school and get online and hang out in chat rooms till time to sleep. And then I got a girlfriend, and got over it.

      The interent
  • Hey dad (Score:5, Funny)

    by mrgrey ( 319015 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @12:57PM (#10909869) Homepage Journal
    Hey dad, get off slashdot. These are my friends. Oh, and I can be grumpy if I want.
  • by Naikrovek ( 667 ) <jjohnson.psg@com> on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @12:57PM (#10909870)
    ... until they stop acting like trolls.

    make them cook their own food, do their own laundry, etc. give them good reasons to leave the PC.

    eventually they'll grow out of it, but it could be years and years before they complete that on their own.

    help them hate the computer, force them to use IE, force them to go through a proxy where everything they do is monitored. disallow them from installing new software. make them hate the computer. they'll either give up or become so good at computers that their online time will turn into a career.

    or you can just do what my dad did when i was hooked on nintendo. pull the fuse and hide it.
  • Geeks? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JFitzsimmons ( 764599 ) <justin@fitzsimmons.ca> on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:01PM (#10909894)
    Are they geek teenagers or just the normal dumb ones?

    If they're geeks then you're probably squashing something useful by forcing the off the computer. I know this by experience. I feel restricted by my parents who are constantly forcing me to do other things, which makes it nearly impossible to do some things I've always wanted to, like clan gaming. On the more productive side, there's nothing more annoying than a parent nagging you to get off the computer when you're in the middle of coding a serious project (debugging even more so). Adding on to that however, I have been working at an IT related job for the last 4 months and both my parents and myself have seen a significant decline in the amount of time I spend on the computer at home. Getting an IT related job might be a little tricky; I think I just got lucky.

    If they aren't geeks, get them off that damn computer. Their time is much better wasted smoking up and getting hammered at some party. Maybe if they're lucky they'll have a kid before they finish high school.
    • Re:Geeks? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ieshan ( 409693 )
      I'm a (just about to graduate) college student who had a similar background- I was a computer nerd who spent lots of time online, and now "computer and hardware skills" are one of my best job skills.

      If they're going to spend a lot of time on the box, *force* them to learn something new. Switch the computer to linux and make them use it to get to their IM client. Introduce them to HTML or PHP, install the stuff on your own computer and host a small webserver. Do anything to make them learn.

      Computer skills
      • I thought linux was as easy to get going and install as windows? That's what everyone keeps telling me. Why is it more of an accomplishment to install linux go download gaim or jabber and run that? If anything, it's probably more challenging for them to learn how to navigate windows withouth turning it into a spamhole.

        Sure learning linux is neat, but if you just had always started with linux, it would be as easy as windows. I guess versatility is good, but don't put them out there not knowing windows backw
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

    by seinman ( 463076 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:02PM (#10909901) Homepage Journal
    I was recently a teenager (i'm 21 now) who spent 8 to 10 hours a day online, and I can't say that it was a bad thing. I mean, as long as they're getting their schoolwork done and still helping out around the house, is it really that big a deal that they spend their free time online? Do what my mom did: no computer until homework and chores are done.
    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by the morgawr ( 670303 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:34PM (#10910247) Homepage Journal
      Also was a teenager who spent a lot of time in my room and around the house (online, video games, reading). Once I got a car, I had no curfew. My folks just expected me to do the right thing and keep them informed about my life. Since they respected me, we never went throught some rebelious phase.

      My parents and I talked about school but doing schoolwork was my responsibility and I got decent grades.

      My parent's attitude was that as long as I acted responsibly, they let me have wide freedom.

      To the OP, if your kids are being responsible with their life, I'd say no worries, they're better off then 90% of the people out there. OTOH, if they are being generally irresponsible by measureable means (failing classes, perpetually getting in late at night, not doing important housework), you should talk to them and figure out why they arn't living up to your expectations. Assuming the computer causes the problems is unproductive and may result in adressing the symptom instead of the cause. In general, trust your kids until they give you reason not to.

      • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Reapy ( 688651 )
        Same boat here except slightly forward. 24 here, married, had a study job for the last 2 years after getting out of college. Never went through a rebellious phase, but did have an older sibling who did that.

        Basically I never talked to people till I got online. I found kali for gameing online in dos and pretty much did that with all my free time. I got a job around 16 years old, worked there part time for 2 1/2 years during highscool and quit when I went to college.

        Every free second of time outside of work
  • Embrace and extend, I just get on line for 10-12 hours a day as well and rearly venture out side. Just refresh Slashdot all day and you'll be fine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:02PM (#10909905)
    You shouldn't be so concerned about the fact that they're spending so much time on the computer. You should be concerned that they're spending that time with mind-numbing chat.

    I spent at least ten hours a day on the computer when I was a teenager. However, I spent it learning to program and other things that later landed me a great high-paying career.

    But kids don't do this anymore. The computer and the internet have simply turned into a "chat toy" and - at best - a gaming console. The idea of putting a computer together and then learning it inside out (meaning more than just how to USE applications and surf the net) is passe. And it's sad.
  • my younger brother went through this same phase. i agree, its VERY annoying. i have yet to figure out what the solution is, but the key is to act now!

    one thought: hop on the internet with them. start showing them all the neat things on the internet where they can learn more about little projects they could replicate or even enhance at home. anything to get their minds churning. that way they get the motivation to get off their butts themselves!

    also, i would encourage them to go to their friends house
  • by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:05PM (#10909929)
    IM is just a communication method. Would you nag them as much if they were chatting on the phone instead? Even if you had more than one phone line? Do computers bother you because you don't understand technology and are afraid of it? Would you be equally concerned if they spent ten hours a day with their friends in real life? If your concern is simply with them being physically inactive, then say it, instead of making some vague "internet is evil" complaint. When teenagers hang out in the real world they are not very active either. Think about it.
    • As if there aren't real people at the other end of that IM client.
      • As if there aren't real people at the other end of that IM client.

        Usually there aren't - in as much as the "real people" are the same as the "on line people they pretend to be".

        Back in the day (this was with IRC, before the term "IM" was even coined) I used to meet a lot of people "in real life" that I only knew from online interaction and - surprisingly at the time, but much less so now - very few of them acted the same way in face to face social situations as they did online.

        • I've met so many people through message boards, chat rooms, and mailing lists (mostly related to the rave scene) over the years that have grown into long-term friendships, roommates, dates, etc. Pretty much all of which are the same online as in person.

          IRC is a cesshole, that may be the difference.
    • C'mon, the guy is asking slashdot for parenting advice, how much more geek could you want? Of course he understands the technology, well at least tries to follow it. I think its more he is concerned that maybe this is a thing he should intervene to help build his kids' character.
      • > I think its more he is concerned that maybe this is a
        > thing he should intervene to help build his kids' character.

        How will refraining from IM build his kids' character? What I see is a parent who doesn't spend much time with his kids, but now sees they are on the Internet (oh, the evil Internet!) and by golly, he must "intervene" or else... or else... Well, I guess nothing that wouldn't have happened anyway.
    • by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @06:03PM (#10913151)
      IM is just a communication method.

      Yes, but it's a "communication method" that a) lacks most (if not all) of the (very important) dynamics of "real" communication and b) encourages and reinforces bad habits.

      People's "online personas" tend to be very different to their "real life personas" - generally more aggressive and arrogant. Even a relatively limited communication medium like the telephone produces a much more complex interaction due to things like pronunciation, intonation, timing, etc that - at best - are almost completely lacking from IM. This is before we get into the dynamics of face to face interaction like facial expressions and body language.

      To put it more succintly, people act substantially differently in IM-style social interactions compared to more traditional methods. A lot of IMing will *not* prepare you well for - nor should be considered the equivalent of - "real" face-to-face social interaction.

      Then there's the bad habits, like poor spelling and grammar, and shrinking vocabularies (I blame TV and poor English curriculums more for *causing* these, but IM *reinforces* them).

      And before you go off on a rant about how I don't "get it", I grew up as a fairly heavy IRC user from ~1992 to ~2000. I make the comments above in critical hindsight, not ignorance.

      Would you nag them as much if they were chatting on the phone instead?

      I'd hope not - the telephone is a vastly superior "communcations method" than IM from a social perspective.

      Would you be equally concerned if they spent ten hours a day with their friends in real life?

      Again, IM is vastly inferior to face-to-face communcations from a social perspective.

      • > A lot of IMing will *not* prepare you well for -
        > nor should be considered the equivalent of -
        > "real" face-to-face social interaction.

        Easy now. I wasn't suggesting that everyone just live in IM from birth. IM is not supposed to prepare you for anything, and neither is talking on the phone. It is about communication. Sure it is not as rich as a face-to-face meeting, but for most purposes it is perfectly adequate. People don't learn their social skills on IM just as they don't learn to swim by be
        • Easy now. I wasn't suggesting that everyone just live in IM from birth. IM is not supposed to prepare you for anything, and neither is talking on the phone. It is about communication.

          Well, in the context it certainly appeared you were suggesting IM to be an equal substitute to "real" social interaction :).

          People don't learn their social skills on IM just as they don't learn to swim by being dropped in the deep end of the ocean. A child does not learn social skills while using IM and I would not expect hi

  • by Pfhor ( 40220 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:06PM (#10909936) Homepage

    I what you described was very similar to my own computer usage habits in my teen years. I was a social introvert, and felt like I could communicate more easily over IRC.

    What i've now realized is that this very stale and limited form of communication (words pale in comparison to things such as body language, tone, eye contact) had curbed my ability to socialize with people in real life. I was not able to handle all of this information being thrown at me when I talked to someone face to face, it became overwhelming. And I became a jerk for a big part of it, what i thought would be sarcastic or witty jokes, ended up being horrible offenses against the people I was talking to, for the very fact that taken as a string of words, it wasn't much, but saying it face to face with a person, making eye contact, etc. changed its meaning.

    What helped me break out of this was some serious away from computer community building experiences. I went to a non traditional boarding school (http://www.shackleton.org) that forced me to deal with people face to face. Once I was able to discover a sense of closeness with people there, being online just felt fake. There are other options too, outward bound is a good one, that will not only get your kids outside for a couple of weeks, but really push their limits and help them figure out what they are capable of.

    I would also suggest limiting their internet access, and having them do outside sports, interaction with people, jobs, and physical exercise, all of which helped me through the difficult stages of puberty and figure out with a little more clarity what I wanted to do with my life.

    I also suggest you take a look at "Letters at 3Am: Reports on Endarkenment" By Michael Ventura, specifically the essay "Age of endarkenment" which is an amazing piece on puberty in western cultures. Also take a look at "Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self" by Donald Nathanson.

    And talk to your kids, tell them about your life growing up and what it was like at that time, not in a shaming way or a contrived way, but just share your experiences with what they may be going through.

    I am not a shrink, or a developmental psychologist or anything of that nature, I have had to deal with my own puberty and I am currently in a stage in my life self relfecting on it and these are the things that I (and my therapist) have discovered to be helpful.
  • Can't Be Hands Off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by akpoff ( 683177 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:06PM (#10909938) Homepage
    I understand the desire to trust their judgement but you can't be totally hands off. You should treat their online time similarly to the way you'd treat their time out with their friends. Do you hand them a key to the front door and tell them when to be home? Probably not. Get online with them...not all day but play the games they play, visit the groups they visit. The internet has as much good and bad to offer as the real world. Treat it with the same respect. One very effective option is to install software that only allows them to visit pre-approved sites. As they demonstrate the maturity and judgement to handle unfettered access then you can slowly loosen it up.

    As for limiting their time that's realatively easy. The same software above can be used to limit hours of overall use, amount of time in specific programs, etc. You can give them lots of time for say using Word to write papers and less time for certain games or online activities. Also, don't forget the value of spending that off time with them (nor that of get-togethers with friends). Take them on family and one-to-one outings. Again, treat the computer the way you would any other activity -- actively manage it.

    Most important to the above is to talk with your children and explain your thinking. I would not suggest going at it by parental fiat -- don't install the software one night while their sleeping. Explain to them your concerns AND your desire to spend time with them. Install it and show them how it works (not the admin part ;-).

    Sullen and moody? That's in part something we as parents have to work around but it's best not to let it run unchecked. The same rapport and good relationship that allows you to spend time online with them and go on outings should help break past the bearer and find the child and attitude you'd rather have around the house.

  • by gbrandt ( 113294 )
    This happened to my sister. Between the hours involved, and the fights to see who get on the computer, she got so pissed off she just cancelled the internet. Her family was more important than the convenience of having internet at home.

    Sure, there was resentment at first, but in the cousr of a month, the whole family is back to normal.

  • by MrIcee ( 550834 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:15PM (#10909995) Homepage
    ...charge them for the time they spend online. Treat your house like an internet cafe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @01:18PM (#10910020)
    Install Linux on their PCs. Something like Debian, without the Gnome or KDE desktop environments. Explain to them that in order to run the instant messenger, they will need to compile the desktop environment for the latest kernel, meanwhile using wget. Bring home a good supply of O'Reilly books.

    Pretty soon they will be either off the Internet, or discussing the kernel fork pros and cons in specialized mailing lists.
    • > Explain to them that in order to run the instant
      > messenger, they will need to compile the desktop
      > environment for the latest kernel, meanwhile using wget.

      I'm afraid on Linux a better suggestion is: "if you want to run instant messenger, you'll have to research the IM protocol and write the client yourself." Because whenever they want to do something right, this is where things will end up.
    • Either that, or they'll figure out how easily apt-get could do that for them. :)
  • now having two people who rarely venture outdoors except under duress

    Easy: get them wireless access. The Danger Hiptop [danger.com] might work.

    And, don't worry, once they discover real sex, they will venture outside again.

    Do you ban them from using MSN?

    Sounds like a good idea. They should be using Jabber.

    Do you limit the number of hours they can be online?"

    Oops, darn, what a shame, Windows crashed again. Kids, it will take me a few hours to reinstall. Sooner or later, they'll catch on and just install Lin

  • Well, you're the parent, do something about it! You don't mention what you've tried to get them unhooked so I can only assume that you haven't done anything yet. Take the initiative. Lay down the rules. Don't know what the rules should be? Make some up. It's more important to have rules at all than to have perfect ones.

    Oh, and you probably waited too long.

    If it were my kids in this situation and it had gotten this far out of hand and they got all up in arms over a few limitations, I would say this:

  • First of all, warn them about obesity and Type II Diabetes. If they're always at the computer, they're taking the risk of becoming obese and that can rnesult in Type II Diabetes.

    Second of all, warn them about social anxiety and depression. Let them know that the longer they avoid going out and doing things, the harder it will become. This could impact them severely and could result in regret and lonelyness.
  • by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @02:06PM (#10910652)
    From all the responses here I see a disturbing pattern of suggestions, no: demands! to be absolutely in control of what children do. This immediately strikes me as both immoral and futile. By trying to fit your child into a specific mold you are treating him like an object. An experimental object of "let's see how much better our kids can turn out if they don't do all the bad things we used to do!" You are basically trying to remove his free will and replace it with your own; to destroy any nascent moral thoughts he may be having and to install your own. From other comments I gather that most parents appear mostly concerned with pornography ("put the computer in a public area"), which is really sad. Sure, there are wars in the world, and school shootings, and hunger and starvation, and drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, fast food; but our children's lives will surely be destroyed by a sight of a woman's body. I won't even talk about the fact that whenever I've been in some male friend's room, I always saw some porn somewhere. I won't mention that your kids can just as easily hide it where you can't find it. I won't even mention those .jpg files on my father's computer (which get automatically added to his Documents' menu :) I guess if he knew how to prevent that, he wouldn't have to ask me to remove spyware, clean viruses, troubleshoot the network; *sigh*) I'll just say that whatever it is you are trying to "protect" your kids from, they will get anyway, and probably dislike you for trying. It's not that you don't mean well, it's that you don't understand the real problem. A boy wouldn't spend so much time looking at porn if he could spend time with a girlfriend. He wouldn't do drugs if he had a purpose in life; a purpose whose emergence you have prevented by trying to cram your own down his throat. He wouldn't do drugs if he had other ways of experiencing pleasure; from learning, for instance: there's nothing like the feeling "I can do this!" "I know how!" "Wow! I finally understand!"; or from sports: "I am strong and agile!", "I am in control of my body!"; or from social interactions: "people like me.", "I am a nice person", "I like meeting people and making friends." He wouldn't smoke if he knew when to try to fit in and when not to. If he knew what kind of people he liked (as opposed to being told whom to like) and why he liked them, he would have had a much better chance of finding friends instead of throwing himself into what he perceives to be the "cool" group in a desperate, futile attempt to belong somewhere, anywhere, to just not be so painfully lonely. He wouldn't be a bully if you had allowed him to develop self-confidence, which you have quashed with every "because I said so" and every restrictive little rule you imposed upon him without explanation. He wouldn't turn to violence if he could change things he hated without it. And you know what? If you keep at trying to make him your "perfect little boy", he'll run away from you. As far as possible. Maybe he'll wait until he goes to college, gets a job, and then never speaks to you again. Maybe not. But I can tell you that you won't be close and you won't be a family.
    • As a high school teacher (10 yrs.) I have lots of chances to talk to and overhear teenagers. I find your remarks quite naive. Sure having a life helps students avoid drugs, but there a plenty of kids out there who had a life before they decided it was more important to be cool. My wife and I went to see "Ray", last weekend. Ray Charles had so much going for him, but he was a junky. There are plenty of men with girlfriends or wives who are risking their happiness by viewing porn.

      Sure, growing up is h
  • If they "need" their intarwebs access, tell them that they can pay for the service.

    That will force them to get jobs or even just do chores (cleaning their rooms, shoveling snow, whatever).

    Once they've got responsibility, they will have less time to spend online and more time becoming responsible members of society.
  • by stevejsmith ( 614145 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @02:11PM (#10910718) Homepage
    Leave 'em alone. It seems that you're mostly concerned about the time that they spend online rather than what they're doing, which is good - they're not idiots, and the worst they can do is maybe look at porn (and in actuality, is that such a horrible thing?). If they're 13-15, chances are they will grow out of it. They're at the age where they're beginning to take social (and romantic) relationships seriously, but are a little new to it and find conversing online a lot easier. As they grow older and more independent, they'll find more real way to communicate (first phone, then in person) and will get off of the computer. It's a hard time for a kid, and easing into serious social and romantic relationships is perfectly normal, and the Internet is just perfect for that. Now, if they're older, then you have a problem. It could be that they're just developing later, or it could be that...I dunno. They're becoming obsessed? But it seems like they're younger (I can't imagine a 17-year-old's age group "just discovering" the Internet), so I think it's perfectly normal. Talk to them about safety and not giving out personal information, but beyond that, don't worry about it. Even porn is hardly detrimental - it's a fine introduction to sexuality and, quite frankly, they'll probably grow out of that, too.
    • The worst thing they can do is look at porn? Erm, they could be tricked into being the next Paris Hilton or something like that. Worse tricking someone else.

      Many people might actually prefer committing suicide than face massive embarassment.

      Kids no matter how smart shouldn't be expected to know as much of the far reaching consequences of their actions as their parents.

      It's fine for parents to be benevolent dictators over their children. That's their job.

      Sure you can argue it's brainwashing, but if you d
  • Just ideas....

    There's this page [archlug.org].

    I'm assuming your kids use windows. Can't help you there - but if you can setup a unix-like router [openbsd.org] you might be able to implement some of these....

    If you can restrict access to a unix machine acting as a router that's running PF [openbsd.org], you could use AuthPF [openbsd.org] to enable or disable a NAT connection to your child's box. Just have them ssh in when they want to use the machine and they either get logged out automatically [daemonnews.org] somehow or logout when they're done. (It's not hard. Putty wit
  • Do you ban them from using MSN?

    Your asking this on slashdot and you don't already know the answer? Seems to me you don't spend enough time on your computer. Who are you to judge your offspring if you yourself can't even keep 'with it'?
  • The solution to this problem and every problem is: Install Linux.

  • I had the same problem with television when I was a kid - I was enraptured by it. I went from playing outside all day and staying in occasionally to staying in all day and playing outside occasionally. My dad saw that this was a problem and came to a very simple solution: No more TV. He threw out all of the TVs in the house except one, which he put in the basement (no cable reception was nill) for watching moves. This stopped my TV watching problem in its tracks. Instead, I spent much more time outside, an
    • As someone pointed out, "the computer" is not comparable to "the television". A TV is a pretty single-purpose device. You turn it on, and watch it. A VCR or DVD player can widen the watching options, and a game console can provide some level of interactivity. But it's all the same. You sit down, and let the damned thing entertain you.

      "The computer" is a wildly different beast, because it's so versatile. If a child is locked in his room on the computer, he could be doing anything from homework,
  • Is this slashdot? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CAPSLOCK2000 ( 27149 )
    I'm very surprised by the responses to this question? It's very unlike Slashdot to promote this kind of totalitarian, dictatorial solutions. I'm even more surprised those kids aren't defended by the slashdot crowd. Maybe they are spending a lot of time on the computer, but they are communicating and socializing. If you tell a geek "get a life" he'l get online. For many people the internet is the best and cheapest way of being in contact with other people.
    Consider all the other possible things teenagers tend
  • By being able to shoulder the responsibilities. If they can't handle the responsibilities of being part of a family ("participate in civilized social interaction with your family"), you pull the privileges.
  • Cut them off.

    While it's arguably okay for them to be social online instead of outdoors, they're not respecting you.

    Cut them off. When they stop acting like a couple of petulant children, then they've earned the right to get back online.

    Don't restrict them for no reason. Don't cut them off just because you're the parent. Make damned sure that they know that *their* actions have triggered these consequences.

    (As a side note, I was raised with next to no supervision on the Internet, and allowed to stay o
  • by Johnny Mnemonic ( 176043 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `eromsnidm'> on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @04:24PM (#10912071) Homepage Journal

    Many Slashdot readers must have confronted this situation;

    how have you dealt with it,
    vi hosts
    slashdot.org 127.0.01

    and what were the outcomes of what you did?
    Once again having a sex life and showering regularly?
  • Put the PC in the living room, kitchen or some other high-traffic location. You really can't be suprised that they never leave the bedroom, you installed a box in there that meets all their emotional needs.

    Perhaps gently taunt them for greasy hair and unwashed flab? Give them nicknames like "biscuits" and "spotty"? Not sure if raising kids is like raising kittens...
  • Porn and kids (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2004 @05:48PM (#10912977)
    I'll be spending most of tomorrow doing a favor for a dear friend. Her and her two boys(12 and 16) will be on a cruise and I'll be going over their computers with a fine-toothed comb.

    Two months ago, both their machines were unusable because of mounds of malware. The older boy had a lousy porn collection but it was clear he'd been massively deleting stuff because he knew I was coming over. The stuff I did find was disturbing enough that I had a long talk with Mom. She, however, didn't want to believe her precious darlings would willingly download the sort of content that could get them thrown in jail. I reached an agreement with her that I'd do this one more time if she agreed not to warn the boys the next time it was going to happen. I rebuilt both machines from scratch - Win2K, ZA, Ad-Aware, AVG, Firefox, and all the updates. Now, one machine is again inoperative and the other is so slow Mom wants to just go buy a new one.

    So, without the boys knowing, I'm going to audit the state of their computers and prepare a report for mom. I have pretty good suspicions about why they wanted the digital cameras and webcams that don't leave their rooms. I have pretty good suspicions about what was in those directories with the names I won't print here. But delivering the report to Mom isn't something I'm looking forward to.

    The original poster is questioning the decision he made to allow computers in the bedrooms of his teens. Based on what I've seen, if I ever have kids there is no freakin' way they'll have access to any computer behind a closed door until they're at least of legal age to do in person the things they'll be tempted to do on cam.

    I have a feeling that if he'd just move the computers to a common area, half his problems would disappear.

    Oh, and btw, when I finish I'm wiping both machines and installing some barebones flavor of linux that I'll strip of pretty much everything except a web browser and an office suite. I want them to be able to do basic schoolwork in their bedrooms but Mom can buy them another Windows machine for games and other assorted diversions.
  • For our kids, we did this, with great success:

    • No unsupervised Internet access until age 13. This ties in with various legislated age limits on site access. In our house, that even included e-mail. Even on old Win95, I set up multiple user accounts and didn't provide theirs with dial-out access.
    • At 13, give them unsupervised access to the Internet, an e-mail account, and a lecture on Internet perils (you should understand them well yourself, first).
    • If you haven't already, install a firewall, virus scan
  • Secure the computer: dont give them access to be able to install software. Remove AOL/MSN/etc IM's, disable IE and install firefox (I dont know if you really can disable IE completely?). Then explain to them that these things are security risks to your computer. That way they may think you are a paranoid, but they arent going to argue it: either they are ignorant to such things, or they know you are right.

    Dont put the computer in their room. Unless you have an obvious nerd. In which case you probably
  • This is a nice show of what the internet does to parents. No wonder the kids are so grumpy.

    Banning them because they won't go outside and waste their time standing around would prove that you're a moron. Standing over them playing Big Brother proves you're untrustworthy, and that net-surfing should be while your back is turned to prevent you from going psychotic over it. Buying into all the 'net monitor' scams does the same, only with more guarantee of your kids becoming furious with your behavior.

  • Parents seem to have a knack for knowing when something is wrong with their kids. If I were you (and I will be in about 10 years w/ a 2 year old and one on the way) I would begin some changes. Porn alone can change people's personalities into something you never thought your sweet babies could be: addicted, violent and compulsive. Not to mention the danger of predetors. A few simple precautions are all it takes though:
    1. Put the computer in a public place.
    2. Never allow them to be on the computer later than
  • by man_ls ( 248470 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @02:47PM (#10919377)
    Speaking as someone who lived that way for a while, then got over it, let me give you some advice:

    (1) The worst possible thing you can do would be to monitor their activities online. Don't even snoop around in their history files, logs, etc. If there's something you don't want them doing (looking at porn, etc.) then make sure they know that "if they get caught" that bad things will happen -- but don't take any real steps to enforce it. Unless they do something dumb (leave porn on the screen while they leave the room, etc.) it's n not worth it. Monitoring just breeds an atmosphere of distrust anyway: you want them to trust you, and it's a mutual thing: if you want them to trust you, you have to trust them somewhat.

    (2) Encourage them, but in a different way. For the first couple years I was in high school, it was difficult for me to see my friends due to geographic seperation (about 30 min. apart) and even then, my mother didn't really like my friends since she made various unfounded assumptions about the kind of people they were, based on stereotypes and rumor. So, even when I had the time to see them, frequently I couldn't. Assuming you don't think that your children's friends are satan incarnate, encourage them to invite people over. My last few years of high school (when I got fed up with the geographic seperation and found friends who were a lot closer to me) my parents liked the new set of friends a lot better, for whatever reason, and every other week or so I'd have 10-ish people over to my house, and we'd make a nuisance of ourselves, etc. My parents liked it for two reasons: (1) They got to meet my friends, or at least see them in person, rather than just hearing about them, and (2) I was socializing. Now, admittedly, when I had friends in the area, I would never stay home to be on the computer instead of going out with them, but they didn't really catch on to that. So, conclusion: encourage your children to invite their friends to your house. and don't give them too much trouble if the music is loud, or there's people running all over the place.

    (3) Since you seem to be the Slashdot parent, I'm sure you've got considerably computer skills. Option 3 is a bit more nefarious: Make the Internet have "issues" whenever you think they've been on it for too much. Whether the issue is "I needed to cut your ethernet cable so I have the full connection, because I'm working from home on an important project" or the issue is "the Internet's been really flaky all day today, something must be wrong up the line somewhere" or "the modem burned out" or anything. Set up some kind of a BSD box...impose bandwidth limits, forced-latency, occasionally remove their NATting so they can't get anywhere, etc. Wage a covert war against it.

    (3) is the worst thing you could do, but it is a viable last resort.

    I didn't socialize much my first few years of high school, since it was difficult for me both in terms of time and transportation. Then, when I had transportation, I still didn't because my parents made it so difficult for me to do so: call every hour when you're with those people, you have to be back at 11, etc. The "management overhead" involved with seeing those friends was made so high, it was seldom worth it for me to do it, if I had to deal with phoning in every so often, and leave in time to be back by their deadline. Once I started disobeying their restrictions so often they gave up enforcing them, I went out a bit more, but even so the driving time was a pain. I didn't really start doing things in my free time outside of the house, until I found local friends. *shrug* Your milage may vary.

    This was all a couple years ago, I'm since out of high school obviously, but those things were my experience.

"The pyramid is opening!" "Which one?" "The one with the ever-widening hole in it!" -- The Firesign Theatre