The adults in the house have sat down and developed a preliminary internet policy for the kids. We talked it over, and determined that there are two issues with the internet, really — the same issues everyone has. First, keeping your computer from being infected or damaged, and second, how to not see things you don’t want to see.
You’ll note that privacy, or the specific subset of privacy along the lines of “protect me from scary internet predators who will stalk me and try to meet me and do bad things to me” is not yet on this list. As far as I can tell, the legitimate issues with privacy are two-fold — protecting your financial and identity information, and putting things out there on the internet that you later wish you hadn’t. My kids don’t yet have financial information, and we’re not logging them into things yet. That’s a more advanced conversation when they start participating in forums and such. Ditto the conversation about posting nude pictures of yourself to the internet, or walking into forums and trusting everyone there to be what they say. We’re not there yet.
So back to the two problems we do have. How do you identify a site you think will infect your computer? How do you identify what things on a site are ads, or are content, or are legitimate content you still don’t want to click on because it will seed your machine with cookies? How do you, when browsing, determine which Google results are the ones you want to see, and which are fan-made puppet snuff-porn? What are the cues?
So we devised some guidelines to help out the novice Googler. With the addendum, that, for the next few weeks, they should ask a grownup to come help out with net searches and surfing.
1. Never click on the words “free” “win” “won” or “virus”.
2. Don’t surf too deeply in the Google results, lest you find porn.
3. Discussing what porn sites look like, and what to do if you find yourself accidentally on one. (Back out of it, don’t click on anything.)
4. Demonstrations of what ad content looks like on sites like Disney Go, and how it looks the same as the content Disney wants you to click on so they get data about you.
5. People make violent, disturbing, sexual, and sexually violent things and post them to the internet. If you stumble onto one of those, just back out of it. Or close the browser if you can’t back up.
6. Come talk to us with any questions.
7. Come talk to us if you find anything disturbing that you have questions about.
8. If you want us to install Safe Search or Net Nanny to make things easier, we will.
The kids said they want to start out without Safe Search, they expressed no interest in porn sites, they recited the anti-virus rules, they know to not install or download anything without checking with us first, and they now have internet surfing privileges.
I mean, they’re seven years old. Right now, they want to search for things like Bakugan, and Tweetie Bird, and videos of exploding toilets. They want Cute Overload, and FailBlog videos. Plus some videos of music groups they like, that sort of thing. But YouTube, man, YouTube can offer up some wacky results if one is not careful. And even a benign image search can toss in a Sexy Porn Cosplay version of something.
We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see what questions they have. But safe interneting doesn’t begin with censorship, it begins with education and awareness and the sense that one is armed with the tools and skills one needs. This is the very first set of tools. Nuance and knowledge will grow with practice.
And, in the meantime, don’t click on the word “Free.”