Despite my wife’s initial disapproval, I have removed all forms of net nanny software from the kid’s computer. They now surf unhindered by the arbitrary limits of the ambiguous cyber-morality-police. The experience has been great for all of us because they do not need my approval to visit every new variant of Disney.com or Cartoon Network.
I’ve had a number of parents express concern, or horror over this. I assure them that the lack of "automatic" software doesn’t mean our children are unsupervised on the Inter webs. We are choosing instead to take an active role in monitoring and teaching our kids how to self monitor their use of the Internet.
We started out with a few basic rules and have expanded slightly on them. First and probably most important, was the speech about "bad things" on the internet. I explained that just like on TV, there are things on the Internet that children shouldn’t be watching. If they find something they don’t understand, or think is inappropriate they should click Home and go back to Webkinz.
The other rules include no downloading (hit cancel if it wants to save anything), limited time on Youtube, no using computer to watch TV shows, and no registration forms without an adult watching over. We also like to discuss new sites before the children go there, and hover over their shoulder for a while on their first visit.
Aside from a little problem with shared Webkinz passwords, we have only had one issue with a downloaded (but not installed) application. I occasionally browse through the Firefox history, and have yet to find more than mistyped URLs. In every case, regardless of the content of the mistyped page, they immediately return to their intended site. I have shown them how to use bookmarks to minimize typos.
I am sure they have seen, or will soon see some risque pictures, objectionable content, or profanity. No amount of software, supervision, or training will keep them from seeing something inappropriate for their age. All you can hope to do is delay it. When I took the time to educate my geeklets about "inappropriate" things, they listened close and agreed that if they find something they don’t think is appropriate they will hit Home and go back to a nicer site. All my experiences so far indicate the kids are much more interested in playing games than looking at naked pictures.
I am sure that at some point their views will change, but with some guidance they may adopt a healthy attitude about these things. If I forbid it, don’t talk about it, and forbid them from seeing it, then I can only imagine they will be more curious and find ways to see it.