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[Discuss] protecting kids online

On 02/05/2014 12:00 PM, Eric Chadbourne wrote:
> I have two nieces (7 & 9) with shiny new android tablets.  I've looked
> at various browser plugins and apps but nothing really stood out to me
> that would effectively block adult content and was no cost.  The couple
> of things I tried seem pretty easy to get around.  Anybody have any
> suggestions?

Speaking as one who once was a kid (but admittedly someone who has no 
kids), blocking seems the wrong approach.

There are a lot of problems and worries and risks about technology, and 
we are just figuring out what they all are, all as new dangers are being 
invented every day.  Blocking "adult content" seems a recipe for 
thinking the problem is solved, responsibility met, and moving on to 
other things that are more fun and less work.

Just boring old Facebook and Twitter appear to be dangerous.  There was 
that girl who recently threw herself off a cement plant tower or 
something in Florida.  She was being bullied online, her parents had 
taken her off social media sites when she was having problems and she 
knew she was having problems, but she couldn't resist and she secretly 
went back.

Clearly this is an extreme case, but I think it has some value anyway: I 
don't think looking at a dirty picture is going to shatter a 7 year old 
girl (how much interest will she have in that anyway?), I would be far 
more worried by other risks, much more insidious things, like posting 
stupid things that might haunt her for years to come, or corresponding 
with a predator who temps her to danger.  Or just spending up a storm 
with in-app purchases from some addictive game.  There are so many apps 
I don't use, so many risks I don't know about--and no one does.  This is 
not a simple project.

In olden days we had fairy tales that were cautionary examples to teach 
our naturally trusting children to be suspicious of some dangerous 
things.  (Some of these old stories were rather violent and extreme, and 
in recent decades have themselves been censored by worried adults.  Find 
an uncensored copy Grimm's and see.)

At the moment we are in new territory, we don't know what the risks are, 
no one does, we don't have a canon of standard precautions to teach 
children.  Which means the children need personal supervision here.  
They need to be warned that there are dangers out there that are new and 
changing, and to be cautious, and ask about things they are not sure 
about.  We need children talking with their parents about what they are 
doing online even if it is not dangerous--because you don't know.  We 
need children to look at technology with skepticism and not think that 
it is a benign force. (Sorry techies, this is dangerous stuff now.)

Children don't want to get hurt, they are capable of cooperation in this 
effort to keep them safe.

But putting up content blocks seems the wrong first step, it sets her up 
as an opponent, doesn't it?

I'm not saying that no technical assists are available here.  For 
example recent versions of Android for tablets have different accounts, 
so it is possible to set up one for a kid that only has a few apps, at 
first, and maybe make her techie world bigger only bit by bit, over 
time, as she, and her parents, master the earlier bits.

This is an evolving problem that *none* of us understand.  In my 
opinion, it needs ongoing parental effort; having a techie uncle install 
something to make it better not only won't do the trick, I think it goes 
in the wrong direction.

-kb, the Kent who can talk big because he has no kids and this is, 
admittedly, all theoretical for him.

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