It may be reasonably obvious at this point that I am somewhat of a free-range parent. Sure, I have my lines, my boundaries, my helicopter moments, but for the large part I firmly believe that staying a bit hands off produces more self-reliant, independent, and creative children. Lenore Skenazy has a great way of pointing out that there is a difference between RISK and RISKY. Risk is a natural part of life after all, there is a 1 in 700,000 chance each year that I will get struck by lighting if I go outside (Risk), but that chance goes up dramatically if I hike to the top of a hill in an empty field while carrying a metal rod in the middle of a lightning storm (RISKY). I’d like you to keep all that in mind as I continue.
My children have been using the computer since a VERY young age, which included time spent playing online poker (long story, but damned if they didn’t win a lot), MMORPGs, and, more recently, DeviantArt profiles. They play Minecraft, hang out on the Youtubez, Skype chat with other players on Jade Dynasty, and, I imagine, do a lot of other things online that I don’t know about. And guess what? I’m totally ok with that. Letting them participate in social networks is a RISK, but we have spent a lot of time encouraging them not to engage in RISKY behavior while participating in such environments. Their ability to navigate through the interwebz is going to be a huge asset in the world in which we live and may very well give them a leg up over their non-surfing peers. Though, I suppose, there is also a chance that I’m just raising a couple of couch potatoes.
Goblin Princess (Child 1) turns 13 in less than 2 months, which is when she will be allowed to create profiles on more traditional social networks (facebook, twitter, etc) and I am struggling to decide how to approach THAT particular milestone. On one hand, I have a strong inclination to demand her password, insist that she allow me to monitor her messages, and limit who she can be friends with. On the other hand, I feel as if I am denying the fundamental truth that I CANNOT PROTECT HER. What I can do is give her the knowledge she needs to remain as safe as possible.
Our rulesy-type things:
- Do not give out personal information such as full name, address, social security number, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, passwords, etc. etc.
- No nekkid pictures of yourself.
- Be careful what you download. If you destroy your computer with a virus, I’m not buying you a new one.
- No bullying.
- And for GODS’ SAKE, please use proper grammar and punctuation in all communications (even if your mom’s sucks).
No, those rules are not particularly extensive, but you know what? The more rules I put in place, the more chances I am giving my children to fuck up, not to succeed. And it’s my job to help them succeed even if I do find it somewhat hilarious when they DO fuck up.