This week was really eye opening for me, with the kids, especially Sophia. One of the more disturbing situations for us was internet safety. I read this article this morning on Empowering Parents and it scared me because of what we found out this week.
As you all know from previous posts on electronic games and items for kids, that I am not a huge fan of them. Especially ones that allow children access on to the internet, and especially ones that are interactive. We have one computer in the house and it sits in our "office," which is our breakfast area that has no doors and is in the middle of the house. Anyone can see what you are doing on the computer, and we will be keeping it that way. We don't discourage the kids from getting on it, but they are really only allowed to play on it for one hour a day, that's it. They spend enough time on it during the week at school for education benefits, and I guarantee you Sophia is not going on our computer to do something educational. (Jordan is a different story, one day, just for fun, he researched the Alamo and put together a slide show for us to watch. I love him.) Sophia goes on there to play games. Any game. All games. She mainly loves to do princess stuff and fairy stuff, where you dress them up. But she will really play anything. They had mentioned a couple times playing a game called Roblox. It's a virtual world for kids that allows them to build cities and stuff. Now look. I don't like virtual world games, either. Sims, stuff like that, scares me because the thought of kids getting sucked in to a fake world and addicted really scares me.
To be honest, they had said that they played it at their moms, and I assumed (won't be making this mistake again) that meant it was safe and fine. Well, I guess it can be safe and fine. But it's also an interactive game with Avatars, where you can friend people. NOPE. The thought just chilled me to my core. At lunch one day, we were talking about it and what you do on it and that type of thing. Jordan said, "People request you to be friends, I only have two friends and they are people I go to school with. Sophia goes crazy friending people." My heart jumped into my throat and I immediately had her take me to the computer and had her log in. 16 friends and I had NO idea who they were. I then read reviews and they made me even more afraid. People saying this site is full of trolls, the people running the site didn't moderate stuff so people were asking for addresses and no one stopped them. Terrified me. We immediately sent the kids' mom a message and told her that they are no longer allowed to play this game at our house and we restricted it on our computer so they couldn't get to it. When I started asking Sophia questions about her friends, she had no clue who they were. I don't want to scare her, but in this world sometimes you kind of have to, even if it's just to be honest about what people can say and do on the internet. I said, "What if it's a man talking to you, pretending to be a girl your age?" She said jokingly, "I would just delete him!" She is no longer allowed to play any game on our computer that is interactive because she is just incredibly naive about it. Jordan seemed to only play the game for the fun of the game and ignored the people who tried to talk to him. Even still, I don't like it.
I don't care if I am creating kids who hate me, I really don't. I have seen too many episodes of Law and Order:SVU to feel good about putting kids in positions that are unsafe. If you REALLY want to creep yourself out, copy and paste and picture of your child on your blog into Google. It will tell you everywhere (if any) that picture is on the internet. Talk about terrifying.
Sometimes, people get onto me because our family doesn't have an iPad, or other tablet. Both kids, at their mom's house, have one. I don't think they need it. People say there are games on there that are educational, and honestly, I think they are unnecessary. You start kids playing games early on phones and stuff like that, and all of the sudden they grow into kids and that's all they want to do. I am constantly having to say no to them playing video games or on the computer, or even watching TV, and it's a struggle sometimes to get them to go out and interact in the real world, or God forbid, read a book. Jordan is good about it, really he is. But he, too, will play video games as long as you let him or tell him to stop, so we have to really be careful to pay attention.
Does the internet scare you with your kids? How many of you sit right by your kids when they are on the computer? I will from now on.