Monitoring Your Children Online?

We were at a dinner party on Friday night and the conversation turned to My Space and IM.  Both an integral part of growing up today.  The question being, do you know what your kids are doing online?  Do you know who they are talking to?  Do you know what they are looking at?

The people who we were talking to were all for monitoring your kids online.  They basically said, you should.  There are a lot of crazy people out there, and you never know.  Playing devil’s advocate, my question is do you know who your kids are really talking to at school?  Are they peering at your dirty magazines under the bed?  Do you really know what they are doing at all times? 

The answer is simple, no.  My thoughts on this matter are no different than sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Have an open dialog with your kids about what are the do’s and don’ts of online behavior.  Know who you are talking to.  Do you recognize that IM address?  What type of conversations are you having?  Don’t decide to meet with someone you meet on line no matter what.  The basic essentials.

If you can’t have an honest and open relationship with your kids, than you are not going to have a trusting relationship with them as adults.  All relationships have a starting point.  Theirs started with you when they came into the world.  What kind of relationship are you going to have with them at 2, 6, 12, 16, 22 etc.  If it a constant challenge and always changing but the basic fundamentals of trust and honesty must be there. You have to be available. Foundations must be built. 

Let’s say you choose to monitor your kids on line.  2 years go by, they have no idea that you are watching them on line.  You start when they are 11.  Now they are 13.  All of a sudden, you see that they are having a correspondence with someone that sends up a warning signal.  Ok.  You sit down and have the conversation with your kid about what you read, saw, etc.  I can’t imagine that the first question they are going to ask is "how long have you been monitoring my life on the Internet"?  Oh, the last 2 years.  Any feelings of trust that your kid has towards you will be tossed out the window.   Want to talk about rebellion?  I don’t think I’d ever have the same relationship with my parents again.  It would take me quite a long time to get past it.  Looking out for me?  No. Not trusting me. Yes. 

I have written about this before when it comes to alcohol, sex or drugs.  To think that your kids won’t  experiment, you are only fooling yourself.  If you give your kids the tools to go out in the world and make decisions based on smart information, most of the time they will make the right choices based on the information they have.  Trust them to be smart.  It is like coaching.  If you teach a kid how to shoot a lay up properly, when they hit the courts, it is amazing how it just clicks. 

Smart parents, smart kids.