Watching My Kid Behind His Back by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

As I sit here here typing, I am listening to my son talking to some YouTube trailers for upcoming movies on his laptop computer. I am aware that they are cartoon type PG-13 movies. My son is 10 and 1/2. No issue here. Yesterday, though, was a different scenario.

My son came up to me asking for head phones or ear buds to plug into his computer. Hmmm. Why would he want/need head phones for his computer? Besides the fact that he hates wearing head phones and ear buds. My Mom antennae went up.

While my son was with his tutor, I went upstairs to look at the history on his computer. 

He is aware that his Father and I have the parental right to look at his computer while he is using it or while he is away from it. Still, I felt like an intruder. He knows never to use my computer or his Father’s, without our permission. Besides, he hates my laptop because the track pad works opposite his. This alone annoys him to no end. But that stealthy feeling just wouldn’t escape me. Did I find anything alarming? Nothing. Just the usual YouTube MineCraft tutorials and associated music. I had to come clean with my son.

Once his tutoring session was over, I explained to my son that I looked at his computer while he was downstairs. I told him that I was curious why he requested head phones. He explained that the head phones enhanced the clarity of the MineCraft music. Quite innocent. I explained that as his parent, I needed to see what he does on his computer because there are websites that are not appropriate for kids his age. These websites could possibly draw unsavory individuals to try to “hack” into his computer. I wanted him to know that I was trying to protect him from potentially dangerous situations while engaging his trust simultaneously. A friend’s son’s computer was recently hacked into by an outside source. Technological vigilance is not something I take lightly.

My son was perfectly okay with my “snooping.” He dismissed it without a second thought. Although I needed to know what he was watching on his computer, I felt unnecessary, persistent guilt afterwards. His school is having a parent/child lecture for kids in Fifth Grade about Kids and Technology. My husband, son and I all prepare to attend.

Back to my son’s computer use. He needs his computer because his teacher uses a web based program to post assignments, grades and allow the kids in the class to bounce questions on the assignments both between each other as well as to the teacher. The assignments are also written up directly into this program. Parents have their own username and password so that we can communicate directly with the teacher about the assignments, grading or other matters, at any time. There’s even an App for it! What a surprise. Plus this program will be used in Middle School. It is here to stay. Thus, my son needs access to some type of computer. My husband uses his for work so it is off limits to everyone. I actually needed to upgrade my old laptop to a newer one, so my “old” laptop is available and waiting for my son to use it. However he hates the trackpad. He claims that he will wait until the laptops of the future will come out with a trackpad like the one that he is used to. He may have to wait until he can eventually develop one himself.

As for my guilt, it diminished once I explained my reasoning to my son. He’s really a good kid. He knows he has parental limits set on his computer. The problem with YouTube is that you can’t filter out the “inappropriate” videos or channels from the appropriate ones. One wrong click and a pornographic video could pop up. Oh well, I guess I have to cross my vigilant fingers and deal with it should it unexpectedly happen.

Here I thought toddler tantrums from hell were a big issue…sheesh!

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