Wade Kelsey Reflects As He Works to Keep His Son Internet Safe
My parents were never “in touch with time”. The computer in our house wasn’t connected to the internet until 2002 or 2003 when I was finishing middle school. By that time, almost all of my schoolmates already had been surfing the web on a daily basis. They had written a long list of “useful sites” separated by categories: “Forbidden videos”, “Pirate Music”, “Porn”, “Hot dating sites”, etc.
First thing I did after I got connected was getting a copy of that list and looking through all the sites added there. It was kind of a tradition to gather in school cantina during lunch and discuss all the “cool stuff’ we’d found and exchange links for videos and photos.
There was a boy in our school, whose parents emigrated from Poland, named Bolek. He was labeled an outsider and a loser due to the fact his parents monitored his online activities and did not let him visit sites from the list. It was always fun to watch him, when other kids showed him some pieces from our collection. He even threw up once when he saw a gory video, where a man gets killed by having his head smashed with a giant rock.
I never thought about how wrong we were about Bolek and his parents until recently, when my three-year-old son started learning how to use a computer. When I look at him and imagine him looking through all that obscure content I’ve seen in my teens, I cannot help myself, my fear is that his tender young mind will be influenced by all that dirt and his future will be ruined.
Statistics that I’ve gathered on the internet make my hair turn grey:
- 17% of 1st graders interact with strangers online;
- Parents allow their kids to browse the web since the age of 4, without controlling their activities;
- 20% of cyberbullying victims reported to feel suicidal about it.
- 70% of teens hide their online activities from their parents. Just like we did;
- 66% of kids encounter pornographic materials accidentally, without searching for them.
This list can go on and on. And I will never believe that all of that has no effect on our kids’ mental and physical health.
Two of my seven schoolmates, with whom we’ve shared common interest, already went through divorce and one of them turned into an alcoholic. Another one is in jail and no one knows where the forth one is.
Bolek, on the other hand, owns a successful business, has a loving wife and two daughters. He is the only guy from school, with whom I still often meet and spend time together.
I am not trying to say that half of my friends have their lives ruined only due to watching videos on the internet; but, it certainly had some influence on them and me as well.
Today I understand that the Polish immigrants we thought were so different, did great as parents and I want to be more like them. I want my son to grow physically and mentally healthy so that he also could create a loving family and succeed in life.
I have already started using the parental control app and luckily for me, there are dozens of them. Reviews of the best parental control software is easy to find on the web (just Google it). But will it make me or you feel safe? Definitely not. And I don’t believe, that any one thing can. There is just too much dirt on the internet. I know, government does all it can to prevent kids encountering it, but this is just can’t be enough. It is a problem and we should fight in every way we can.
I know that the majority of parents think the same as me. It is our duty to let our kids be kids and let nothing spoil their childhood.
Photo: Tim Pierce/Flickr