The first blog under the “Is Your Engine Light On” headline. How many times have you heard those two words, BUT MOM? If I were paid a dollar for every time one of my kids said that to me. But Mom, is the response I hear each time I say no to anything my kids are wanting to do. “Can I spend the night, can someone come over?” “I want a new pair of shoes, everyone has them!” “All of my friends are going” “My homework can wait until tomorrow” “All of my friends can watch PG-13 and R movies” The list can go on an on… BUT one of the biggies we have experienced in our home is the access to more and more technology. The internet has such amazing opportunities for all of us and at the same time is one of the scariest tools you can unleash your kids with. One of our boys loves to play a specific game on the internet and though Scott and I have each had an opportunity to watch this game in play neither of us initially saw a problem with it. His “love” for this game continued to increase, so much so we began having a hard time pulling him away. We also began to notice he would rather play the game then go outside, go out to dinner with the family, run errands, do his homework etc. This all eventually led to us removing him from having free access to the computer. Now you may be thinking, “I would have done that immediately! BUT the contradiction we face is this… Most of his school work has to be done via computer. All of his teachers post their assignments on the web, assignments have to be researched on the web, turned in on the web the list is endless. So our great parenting plan for the punishment of the computer was quickly overturned when education took priority over parenting. We did put the computer on lock down and chose to only log him in when homework was the focus. Kids these days are so advanced on technology unless you sit right next to them while they are on the computer, even the strictest of settings can be bypassed by a kid who is computer savvy. After a few weeks there was no further discussion of wanting to play the game and all was behind us. Summer came, homework ended and we saw no reason for him to have this limited restriction to the game any longer. Again, slowly his behavior began to change a bit, he began to be isolated all of the time playing on the computer, angry when we would ask him to get off. Playing outside diminished, wanting to leave at all was a huge issue. As Scott and I pondered everything that would be changing him so drastically and so negatively Scott decided to google negative aspects of this game and low and behold, reports of addiction, isolation, depression, anger had all been reported in kids playing this game!!! We were shocked that we truly thought we had researched and done everything we needed to do to ensure that what our kids played on the computer was safe, but there was a crucial amount of information we had not seen. We had never thought to google Negative side affects to this game, but once we did the flood gates opened. At the same time, Scott received an email from someone in Europe saying our son had agreed to buy his account on this game and we owed him money. This was the straw that broke the camels back as they say. We sat him down and explained that several of the side effects to this game were things we were seeing in him while he was playing it, and communicating with someone in Europe which subsequently led to giving out our email was very dangerous and the game had to stop. The more Scott and I thought about it the more we realized that when we forced a break from the computer all that we were seeing that we didn’t like disappeared, then quickly returned when we allowed him full access to the computer. In hind sight our “light” was on several times but like I’ve said before, how often does your light come on and go off, how often do you “feel” that something is not right and then there is a break in your feeling and you think things are ok. This is exactly what had happened to us with this game. We felt we had done all we needed to do, had all the right settings on the computer to protect our kids from negative aspects of the web, only to realize we had missed the boat on this one. Often times Scott and I have “after the fact” conversations about how we both had a feeling about something but didn’t act on it, or didn’t communicate it with each other. Once all of this came to fruition the game was deleted and the link blocked. Our job didn’t end there. There is internet access everywhere, smart phones that allow you to access most sites on the web, friends homes where computers are easily accessible, again the list is endless. We had to explain the facts to our son and had to get him on board with the realization that this game was not something he should be doing. It is not easy convincing a young boy that we see all of these signs that he can’t even comprehend. I would be lying if I said we told him to not play it anymore and he did, but we watched him closely encouraged him to find other things to play and he did gradually reduce his playing time until it no longer was something he desired to do. Our “light” was on and we finally heeded the warning and took the necessary steps to ensure this game would no longer be part of our sons play. Is the light off for good? Absolutely not! We will continually have to oversee internet use with all of our kids and the research we do on websites and games will be forever more intensive, our discussions as a couple are also key to helping us know if there are warnings we should take seriously. When we both have our “lights” on, we know immediately to take action. We have always said God has such an amazing way of showing us what he wants us to see when it comes to our children, the problem, we have to be listening!!! Below I have added some computer statistics I found regarding children and the internet. Be vigilant friends, our kids are so far advanced with technology. Educate yourself on EVERYTHING your kids are playing on the computer and google Negative aspects of things as well.
One in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the Internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web. Solicitations were defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give personal sexual information. – Crimes Against Children Research Center
25% of children have been exposed to unwanted pornographic material online. – Crimes Against Children Research Center
Only 1/3 of households with Internet access are actively protecting their children with filtering or blocking software. – Center for Missing and Exploited Children
75% of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services. – eMarketer
Only approximately 25% of children who encountered a sexual approach or solicitation told a parent or adult. – Crimes Against Children Research Center
One in 33 youth received an aggressive sexual solicitation in the past year. This means a predator asked a young person to meet somewhere, called a young person on the phone, and/or sent the young person correspondence, money, or gifts through the U.S. Postal Service. – Your Internet Safety Survey
77% of the targets for online predators were age 14 or older. Another 22% were users ages 10 to 13. – Crimes Against Children Research Center