School’s out for summer. Do you know where your kids are?
If they are hacking away at the computer, don’t feel relieved that they are doing something intellectual. They might be wandering in the Internet. They may be prey for icky, sicko adults.
Recently, a 13-year-old Kentucky girl took off from her home for two weeks. Before running away, she had spent hours on-line, corresponding with many people, including a man who told her: “We can run around our room naked all day and all night.”
And 15-year-old Daniel Montgomery of Maple Valley, Wash., fled to San Francisco to meet up with a man he had met in a cyberspace “chat room.”
Some members of Congress are all upset about this and are trying to regulate the Internet to keep pornography and pedophiles at bay. But that’s no solution to the problem of a lonely adolescent playing for hours on a computer that his parents don’t understand at all.
The solution is for parents to spend time with their children. Regulate their children’s computer use. And understand what they are regulating.
The Internet, now available through most on-line services, is a chaos of information. Picture a library that boasts 1 million-plus books, videos, magazines, newspapers and letters. About 100,000 librarians have cataloged the information in different places, according to their interests and quirks. That’s the Internet, and it’s a jungle.
But children often feel at home there because they hold a different attitude toward computers. Many adults worry they will break something as they explore the Internet. Children don’t hold the same fear because they have grown up on keyboards. They pound away, going deeper and deeper into the jungle where they easily can meet weirdos hiding in the trees.
It’s a parent’s responsibility to become computer-literate. Explore the information jungle yourself. The Spokane Public Library will offer training soon.
Then set limits, such as: You can explore the Internet only when I’m in the room. Or just turn the darn thing off.
Instead, enjoy summer with your children - outdoors. Hike. Bike. Chat on the porch while eating fresh summer fruit. Throw blankets on the back lawn and look at the stars. The computer’s not going anywhere. Winter, with its many dark, cold hours to fill, will return soon enough.
When young Daniel Montgomery finally came home, his mother said these wise words to reporters: “Drop what you’re doing that you think is so important and spend more time with your kids.”
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board