Friday, May 27, 2005

Just what are our children doing?

You may remember the Stinson household purchased a new laptop with a Linspire-distribution of linux pre-loaded. It came with Linspire 4.5 and I loaded Linspire 5.0 at the first chance. It's slick, and, so far, I have been very pleased. It's as easy to use as Windows, doesn't crash, and does everything I need it to do (even things for graduate school when they told me I had to have the latest Microsoft Office package. Snots to the folks in Redmond, I say.

I established accounts for each household member, figuring that with the administrator "root" account, I'd be able to track whatever my eldest sons have been doing. Trust, but verify, if you know what I mean.

Richard hasn't bothered even looking at the computer; Andrew has taken a shine to it. Last night I decided it was time to "verify."

He's changed his password.

Okay, I thought. I'll just go into the administrator account and slide over to see what he's doing that way.

I'm not so smart, and I couldn't figure out how to do it.

And then, today, I come across this bit in the Kansas City Star: “Oh, my blog! Are Mom and Dad reading me?”
Son, we need to have a serious talk. Your dad and I have been a little concerned about you lately. You keep to yourself, you don’t really talk to us anymore, you shut yourself in your room. Are you ... are you on blogs?

If you’re a teen, your heart may just have skipped a worried beat. (“Oh. My. ---. Are my parents reading my blog?”)

If you’re a parent and you just asked: “What’s a blog?” well, you might just want to read on.

For those adults still out of the cyber-loop, a quick catch-up: “Blog” is short for Web log; many blogs these days take the form of online diaries, where people can publish everything from the most mundane details of their lives (one’s first taste of Ramen noodles) to their deepest, darkest musings (from the stresses of the SAT all the way up the scale to talk of suicide).

Online journals have been gaining popularity for several years through Web sites like LiveJournal and Blogger, which make it fairly easy to start your own blog for free. But at the moment, the Must-Blog site of many teens is Xanga, a site that’s simple to navigate a site where it’s super-easy for anybody to start a blog. Talk to any random middle or high school student today chances are, if they don’t have a blog on LiveJournal, they’ve got one on Xanga. And if they don’t, they know at least a dozen kids who do.
Yes, no longer do we parents ask if our children are on drugs. Now we ask if they are on blogs.

So, how's this relate to my getting locked out of Andrew's surfing... The question asked is this: are parents reading their children's blogs?
A lot of kids assume they’re in the clear, Kaytryn Hill (a 15 year-old high school student in Texas) says, because they think their parents are technologically clueless and won’t ever stumble upon their blogs.

“Most of the time, (my friends) are like: ‘Well, my parents don’t know how to work the computer. Sometime I have to log them on to the Internet.’ And the majority of parents are very computer-illiterate,” Kaytryn says, adding that hers are computer-savvy.
And how computer-savvy are her parents? The answer is fairly.
Kaytryn Hill’s parents have taken measures to prevent such problems: They have Spyware on their home computer system, which means they can monitor everything that goes on.

Although Kaytryn was under the impression her house was Spyware-free, Mom says they’ve had the software since they introduced Kaytryn to the Internet.

“Because it’s one of our greatest fears is that somebody will lure these kids,” Janis Hill says. “They think they’re talking to other kids, and they’re not afraid of anything.”

Other parents don’t go as far as installing Spyware, but will check the computer’s Internet history to see where their kids have been surfing.
So, now I'm off to either find linux-based spyware or figure out how I can see Andrew's history.

And, Andrew, if you're reading this, note this:
Dr. David Welsh, a Fort Worth, Texas, child psychologist, says kids should have some measure of privacy. Some.

“But ultimately, the concept of privacy, a lot of that is predicated on the notion of parity or equality,” he says. “I don’t think that applies in a family situation. There’s a reason the IRS calls these creatures ‘dependents.’ You the parent are responsible for the safety and well-being of this organism at every level.

“I think that the kids’ right to expect some measure of privacy sort of ends at the point where the parent begins to have probable cause to believe that this child might be entering into kind of a dangerous zone.”
Andrew, perhaps you can just tell me your new password?

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