Monday, November 17, 2008

TV and Internet Parental Controls

I received an email from a fellow Catholic author on an article he's writing:
As a Catholic mother, however, I was wondering if maybe you can help me with the next story I am working on for OSV. I am looking at parental controls for the internet and television that help parents keep track of what their kids are doing online or are watching on TV. I'm hoping to talk to Catholic parents who use these types of tools to prevent their kids from accessing or viewing inappropriate material. Is this something that you've tried in your family?
My response?
This is something I've been thinking about myself lately.

The control on TV has always been easy as we didn't do TV. Period. However, my husband recently (as in two weeks ago) installed a satellite so he can watch hockey. Hockey does rule in this house, but . . . sigh. Okay, we now get EWTN but we also get all those dreaded Nick stations and sell-you-stuff stations and so on. Though we do have the basic (so-called family friendly) package. So, I'm thinking about parental controls at this moment.

On the computer, I have a friend who has some kind of parent spyware attached so they know exactly what the kids are doing -- right down to the content of emails and IM'ing. Their kids are unaware that the parents are watching. I don't know if I want to do that or not -- but you can bet that I'm seriously considering it. Right now, my computer parental control consists of the computer being set in the middle of our living space. Kind of hard to sneak onto inappropriate sites when Mom is walking by every other second carrying laundry or helping a little with homework.

I'm going to post your question to my blog and let's see what other parents have to say.
So my dear readers, what do you have to say on this topic? I'd love to see lots of detailed comments for this writer as well as for us parents who are looking for help in monitoring television and computer usage.


Dawn said...

Maureen, we too have satellite and get a myriad of garbage stations. We have always talked to the kids about what is appropriate viewing material and what is not and they are pretty good about staying within boundaries. However, kids are curious so we do use the password function to block any and all channels that we believe are or may contain material that may be inappropriate. The kids actually are pretty good at policing each other when it comes to cartoons. We spend a lot of time with Animal Planet.
For the internet, we have one computer in the living room that the kids are allowed to use. We don't have monitoring software at this time. We don't allow instant messaging or chat rooms. They are allowed to use the internet for email, they have a catholic exchange account, and I have the password. They know it is a monitored account and I randomly check emails for content. They must also ask permission to email anyone not already on their authorized list. We discuss websites that may have inappropriate content, like Youtube..they may only view items there that I have approved first. Any divergence from the rules eliminates their internet use 100%. That means they have to use Encycolopedias, they hate that. It's a good deterrent. :)

Christine the Soccer Mom said...

maureen, my girls are still a bit young for using the internet much without direct guidance, but we have Leopard on our new Mac, which means there are parental controls built into it. I can limit how long they can be on, which sites they visit, etc. More details on it are on this page.

Christine the Soccer Mom said...

Oh, for TV. I have strict limits on it, and try to keep it down to "you can watch what's on the DVR" (which usually means EWTN or TCM). I abhor any "live" TV because the commercials are so insidious!

Renee said...

We have multiple computers and they are not "in the middle of things". One is in the library and one is upstairs in the playroom so we have free software installed on those computers.
You can select which types of sites (or specific) can be visited. You can set hours that the internet can and can't be accessed. We have been happy with this product

Homeschool Connections said...

As for our TV consumption and access to it, we just got cable and my wife and I agreed that we cannot let this rule our roost. Read the poem called The Stranger (I think that is what is is called). It is an eye opener. Anway, we pretty much leave it off until the kids go down at 8:30. They may get to watch 30 minutes during the weekday but that is it if they even get that. On the weekend, we watch as a family Extreme Home Makeover. They love it as do my wife and I.

Back to my point, the kids have to be encouraged to use their imagination by playing games, etc. This won't happen until the TV is turned off...and this has been certainly our experience for about 4 years now. They are fantastically engaged in their imagination. And I might add this requires us as parents a willingness to participate in their games no matter how mundane it might seem at the moment it is a great opportunity to look at them in a new and really special way.