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Monday, April 3, 2006

Protecting Children
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We've all read the wise words of Adam Thierer about ways parents can use both technology and common sense to protect our children in this age of content bombardment. I've managed to handle things in my house so far by some fairly simple means, like: 1) Having only one television, with only my wife and I permitted to turn it on and select channels (I try to stay in the general area to monitor, but they know what's acceptable and what's not and know there will be consequences if caught watching something inappropriate). 2) Having only one computer with Internet access, with only my wife and I permitted to use it (my kids can go online if I'm around and can supervise; I tend to monitor that far more closely than the TV). Well, my daughter turned eleven this weekend and my admittedly draconian approach was put to the test.

My daughter was joined by several giggling classmates for a birthday sleepover. I gave them free rein of the basement, where we keep our solitary TV. (Our computer is also down there, I removed it before the party.) I wanted the girls to feel free down there and not have my wife and I looming over them. I wanted them to be able to use the TV if they wanted. But I didn't want them watching the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. So I made sure the only DVDs in the basement were age-appropriate, and I went into Parental Controls for the first time on my TiVo and blocked out a number of channels.

The girls watched TV into the night (my daughter, the last to fall asleep, claims she made it until 3:30 am; with no witnesses we have to take her word for it). I felt confident as these houseguests were sent back to their parents that I didn't contribute to their moral decay (although the sugar in the birthday cake frosting may have contributed to tooth decay).

The whole experience was really quite simple (the channel blocking, not having a houseful of preteen girls, although I think my seven-year-old son suffered worse than I did). I have now disabled again the parental controls because, again, my kids simply aren't permitted much TV, period, and I can still monitor what they do watch. But it's nice to know those tools are there for when I'm not completely able to monitor the situation, or I don't completely trust my kids not to try to sneak some in when I'm in a remote part of the house.

Bottom line? I much prefer being a consumer in control of the content in my own house rather than having those decisions made by government or by advocacy groups that force industry standards or other restrictions onto that content. When my kids are watching TV I don't stand in the room at all times with them; I trust them to follow my guidelines and to the extent I do monitor them they seem to do so. I want my government to trust me as well.

posted by Patrick Ross @ 4:06 PM | Free Speech , Mass Media

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