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What are our children doing behind closed doors?

category national | consumer issues | opinion/analysis author Thursday November 03, 2005 11:42author by Kathy Sinnott Report this post to the editors

How well supervised are your children on the internet?

One morning my mother was in the basement feeding wet-washed clothes into the ringer when she paused to rest for a moment. With the ringer off she suddenly realised the house was quiet - unusually quiet. She took a careful look around and thoughtfully headed for the stairs. It was equally quiet in the kitchen. She moved more quickly now as she headed upstairs. The bedromms were empty but before climbing to the attic, she noticed the bathroom door was fully shut. Approaching, she thought she heard a noise. Trying the knob she found it locked.

Her knock was met with silence. "Timmy and John are you in the bathroom?" Was that a swallowed giggle, she wondered with growing suspicion. "I know you are there. What are you doing?" There was a little shuffling sound up to the door. "We're not putting peanut butter and jelly on the walls."

My mother had it easy...messy..but easy. She could wash the peanut butter and jelly off the wall. In fact when the work and annoynace were over, she could remember this episode affectionately and could enjoy it for the rest of her life.

What are our children doing behind closed doors? Well any parent whose child has a computer with internet in the bedroom or in any room that is not supervised should make a point of finding out what is going on. A quick review of the research is very thought-provoking and even disturbing. 90% of youths in the EU have access to internet. 90% of American children over four years of age regularly use IT technology like the internet. 40% of children below the age of four years use computers. In the USA, over half of parents with internet have been asked for a specific Christmas present that has been marketed directly to them on the internet.

An EU study suggests that 24% of children between the ages of eight and 17 have accidentally encountered pornography while on the internet. Another study says that one in three children are exposed to one of the 260 million pornographic pages online or one of 470,000 paedophile sites. Bear in mind that pornography is a E20 billion a year industry, that is always looking for new customers to expand its operations. Another study found out that minors are often exposed to ads for online gampbling on non-gambling websites.

Studies show teenagers aged between 12 and 17 are most likely to go online between 3pm and 5pm. These are the hours when they are also most likely to be alone in working households. One in five parents of children aged between 2 and 17 cite the internet as the media influence of greatest concern in raising their children, second only to television.

In the USA 58% of children say thy have accessed an objectionable website intentionally. A study by the Safe American Foundation reported that 91% of teenagers said they unintentionally accessed websites featuring pornographic hate-based or violent material while conducting research for school or just surfing the web.

There is also potential for contact with cults, cyber bullying, cyber blackmail and aggressive marketing. The internet has a wealth of great information and interesting sites but it is also plagued by predators who want something from our children that we parents do not want sacrificed: their money, attention, and far worse, their innocence.

Love of our children and common sense go a long way when we are faced with any challenge to our children. If you do have internet, use passwords, keep the computer in the busiest part of the house. Install family and child-friendly software to filter out dangerous sites.

Children need time to be children. They need to run, swing, kick and tumble. They need to play and develop and this needs an environment of protected innocence.

Common sense also tells us that children need time with us. I suppose the numbers I find the most daunting are thse: During the secondary school years, an average European child will spend 1,400 hours with the TV, radio, internet, game consoles, video games, telephones and mobiles. 850 hours at school. 200 hours in sport or cultural activities and 208 hours talking to their parents.

As parents we have to think about readjusting those figures and in the meantime, when we are with our children, we have to make very minute count.

author by Paul McAndrewpublication date Thu Nov 03, 2005 12:05author email paul at queer dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to SOCRATES by Plato, according to William L.
Patty and Louise S. Johnson, Personality and Adjustment, p. 277

author by agreedpublication date Thu Nov 03, 2005 14:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sheesh - the internet being the latest thing for parents to get themselves in a tizzy about if their kids decide to put their hands in their pants, or someone elses. Once it was rock'n'roll music, then drive-ins, then MTV, then video games, now the dreaded internet! Maybe back in Plato and Socrates time it was something else, like the introduction of dancing girls at the gladiator games, or carvings of naked women on display in public places.

For all the shite about kids being sexualised younger, the age that people marry and have kids is getting much later these days. My parents were 24 when I was born, typical of their generation. I know very few 24 year olds with kids these days.

Personally what I think you should be worrying about is the commercialisation of kids lives. There's so much pressure on them via advertising to have the latest camera phone, label designer jeans, four euro ringtone, etc - personally I'd rather encourage them to get down to having (safe) sex at an earlier age under my own roof, at least its free and orgasms dont fall into the realm of advertising (yet), they arent out drinking and stamping on peoples heads outside a disco, and they'll learn respect for the opposite gender much earlier in life.

author by sparklespublication date Thu Nov 03, 2005 14:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i guess that its important to examine what 'innocence' is supposed to mean in this context and what purpose it serves..

this idea of sexuality being something which children should be protected from is tied to a patriarchal religious understanding of what sexuality is. Innocence in this context is correlated to purity, pointing to an understanding of sex as corrupting. The only way in which sexual urges can be resolved is through divinely ordained marriage, and god-fearing, missionary position, no-tongues-when-kissing, purely-for-procreation sex.

Also, this idea of innocence places the child in a position of ignorance and weakness, so that when they do encounter harmful sexual conduct, they are frequently not capable of understanding it, resisting unwelcome approaches and understanding that sexual abuse is wrong. With a taboo on sexuality in general, it becomes impossible for abusive sexuality to be tackled. This can clearly be seen in the way in which the Church refused to deal with sexual abuse. By focusing on protecting children from exposure to sexuality, you disempower them and prevent them from reaching a healthy undertanding of who they are. If you are worried about children being harmed through the portrayal of sexuality in porn, then you must suggest a better way of educating children about their bodies.

If much contemporary pornography is grotesque, then it is simply a symptom of repression in general. But in a time where power so frequently manifsts itself through sexual assault, to attack pornography in the name of protecting the children is pure hypocrisy.

author by hippopotamouse oatspublication date Thu Nov 03, 2005 14:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I dont think there's anything wrong or hypocrtical with attacking porn on the issue of it being problematic for children. Your pal Dworkin surely would have had some thoughts on the issue. I dont think its that healthy for young children to be exposed to "hot young teen asian xxx cyber sluts" for various reasons which are obvious and I cant be bothered going in to.

author by In Plato's timepublication date Thu Nov 03, 2005 17:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So you might not want to cite the ancient Greeks as role models for pedagogy.

author by Justin Morahan - Peace Peoplepublication date Sat Oct 21, 2006 10:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

An important point made by Kathy has been overlooked, namely the "potential for contact with cults, cyber bullying, cyber blackmail and aggressive marketing".

For computer-illiterate parents, these can be very worrying. A child threatened online by some weirdo in a computer game may be unable to pass on his or her fear to anyone.

Cyber bullying is real also. Children may be more advanced nowadays but they all need help and protection, just as vulnerable adults do. Cyber blackmail is a frightening concept and aggressive marketing is more insidious when addressed to centless children than when addressed to their parents.

author by Thigh high docspublication date Sat Oct 21, 2006 10:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What Ms Sinnott did you do behind closed door when you were a 'child'.

Concocting an article out of research data which is probably being nefariously
used for some mode of internet control is worrying.

There is

1. a difference between a teenager and a child.
2. An issue of privacy.
3. The joy of a teenager kicking and tumbling ? - what on earth is this article
trying to get to-

As soon as they hit puberty, they no longer 'kick and tumble', they are aggressive, sweet, caring
and obnoxious, (the old sex hormones kicking in)

'Creating a protective atmosphere' is something that no-one wants, especially when
the mores of the parents are repressive and not savvy.

To remedy Cyber -bullying or porn issues.

1. Communication:- maintaining an open relationship.

this does not mean imposing your morality on an individual.

2. Giving them the tools to know what is acceptable in terms of personal safety and space issues.
(this should be done from the time they were born and in the schools, kids actually
know the difference between right and wrong)

as to masturbation/sex/porn :- please , a little titillation (WE ALL DID/DO IT).

The problem with some modes of p[arenting is that the urge to 'protect'is actually
a shame issue , where the whole area of sexuality is not talked about because
of repression , thus mystifying it and transmitting ideas that there is something
wrong with it.

Don't Censor Your Kids.

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