What it's all about

My son, who's now three and a half has taken a strong liking to sitting at the "grown up" computer to play games. There are a couple of great sites affiliated with tv channels and production companies that have wonderful content for kids and these are exactly the sort of things that we want to encourage our kids to do - good. clean, wholesome fun on the internet.

The problem of course is that by using the grown up computer they also have access to a whole lot more. That's why I've given him my old laptop for playing games on (after all in this day and age, computers are nearly worthless by the time you open the box!). It's perfect for him to use because we can move it around the house depending on where his sister is sleeping at the time. And, because it isn't hooked up to the internet or anything else, I know exactly what he's playing with at any given time. The problem is that the real appeal for an almost 4 year old is to feel like he's all grown up and can do the same things as mom and dad. And that means using the same things as mom and dad - including the grown up computer in my home office.

Anyway, the point of this long story is that yesterday afternoon, in a real generous mood - or maybe in a desperate situation - I let him poke away with the mouse while his little sister bounced around in her bouncy fun chair in one corner of the room and I looked over some reports in the other. Sounds like the perfect model, right.... wrong.

A click or two on the wrong spot and before you know it my computer genius was surfing around all over the CNN web site. Innocent enough, until you think about the wide range of adult level content he could find there. I'm not talking porn, but there are all sorts of bloody war images and other things that can be disturbing for a youngster.

Now, I'm not suggesting we need to screen out a news site from our kids. The point is that in complete innocence, a very young child had found his way from learning about the abc's to something much different and inappropriate. And all this while I was sitting just a few feet away.

This is a perfect example of why we need to be careful about what our kids are doing online. We need to all be aware of the possibilities and pay attention. Our kids won't always be three, and we can't always be in the room when they're online. So be careful and be aware.

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