Revelation doesn't have to come from complicated questions. Insights often come from the simplest of questions and simplest of answers.

In our small town the gym that my wife and I belong to is on the way to the local high school. This frosty morning, as my youngest son Paul (age 18, senior in high school, engineering school aspirant, potential Naval officer) drove me to the gym on the way to school, he backed out of the garage, turned the wheel, stopped, shifted into drive and looked left. Walking down the hill was his friend Matt and his brother. 

As they hopped in the back, I said "If you were 10 seconds later, we might have missed you completely." Paul corrected me saying that he knew they were coming through SMS. I questioned further…

…you've been texting this morning already (this was at about 6:50 am). "No, last night."

Then I asked if you can remember a time before texting? a time before the Internet?

Paul said he could remember both. The earliest memory of the Internet was my prohibition against using it (he was 5 after all). Then we discussed the initial rules I posted next to each computer once we did have the household network and always on (initially cable broadband, then DSL) capability in place. I can't remember them all, but here are a few:

  • Use the Internet to strengthen friendships you already have – do not talk, text or email strangers
  • Never accept IM from somebody you don't know
  • Never tell anybody online your age or your address unless you're really sure who they are
  • Do not post your email address on other sites without mom and dad's permission
  • If the site says, stay away if you're under 18 – STAY AWAY.

My goal was to help my kids enjoy the Internet in a safe and responsible way. In 1996, there were few options short of parental censorship (perfectly reasonable) and supervision of use. I can honestly say that I regularly viewed browser history lists and checked email logs. Of course, since I've implemented the anti-spam appliance on our email service, I have significantly reduced email as a vector for trouble, and it helps a great deal that my kids are now all adults so they know what to expect and what to ignore.

Parents today can rely on useful services such as this one for kid's email management.

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