image A commonly recurring topic in my writings is the issues that arise from parenting with relationship to the Internet and social networks.  I haven’t tackled the subject in great depth, to the best of my memory, since Miley Cyrus was caught doing some questionable things with her mobile phone and MySpace account.

As I said at the time, though, it is a topic I’ve given some thought on how I plan to handle when my sons are of the age to be frequenting social networking sites that allow significant user input (my eldest is just now starting to outgrow the functionality in Kidzui).

Why is my mind on this today?  Linda Miola-Furrier posted on what I must imagine is becoming a more frequent occurance in today’s school systems: a parent teacher session on Facebook and security as it relates to their children.

From her post today:

The event was billed as an event to increase your knowledge of your kids’ cyber culture on Facebook. The Facebook employee panelist was informative enough, but I couldn’t help feel that he really didn’t “get it”. His youth was indicative of the Facebook employee culture, but I am guessing he has never worried about a child getting home safely or being stalked on the Internet.

I was left wondering, who is monitoring cyberspace outside of school hours? Whose responsibility is it? Should Facebook default to the most restrictive privacy settings for minors? Wouldn’t restrictions to spreading networks be highly counter to their business goals. Is Facebook’s sharing and connecting utility and business growth plan in conflict with the best interest of the kids?

Personally, I’m not sure what role (if any) I’m comfortable having my children’s school playing in their ability to speak freely on the Internet. Granted, there should probably be some policing to ensure illegal acts are not occurring (and optimally, I’d rather have the actual police work on that and have educators focus on education).

In terms of who’s ultimately responsible for my children’s well-being online, I’m pretty sure that falls into my own lap. 

I was one of those brain-case children that stayed plugged in non-stop from a very early age.  In my early teens I was running a local BBS as well as a monthly community publication consisting of crowd-sourced submissions.

My parents kept a pretty good eye on me as a child, but there was only so much they could do without a good awareness of how the technology works, or even much more than basic computer literacy.

We hear everything you say! That’s where I’m different (and, I imagine for most of my readers, you are as well)… It’s not difficult to find monitoring tools, and I’m not just talking about the pre-packaged filtering tools that they try to sell you. If you think President Bush’s warrantless wiretaps were overly harsh, you haven’t seen anything yet. I’m talking about keyloggers, and remote desktop viewers.

Perhaps it’s over-protectiveness, but I need to know what my kids are going to be into. I know what I encountered back in my day, and the Internet has matured significantly since then.

The drum that’s usually beat here is that education is key – if you educate your children about the dangers online, they’ll learn to avoid them.  Certainly that’s important, but just as important is adult and parent education.  Parents need to learn what tools and sites their kids are using, and how to regulate and monitor them as well.

Knowing what’s out there, as I do, and remembering my own experiences as a youth, I don’t want to hamper their development and learning, but I don’t see any way I could simply turn them loose into the wilds unabated.