Parental controls online are mostly misguided

Remember when the biggest issue of kids going online was that someone would find out where they live and kidnap them? When my kids first started using Minecraft message boards, I told them a million times, “Don’t tell people where you live.”

Now, four years later, my kids spend most of their day online. My older son writes speculative science fiction and weaves his work into stories written with other people. My younger son collaborates on design jobs with kids who know software that he doesn’t know. Both my sons play multiplayer games.

What they don’t do is talk about location. In fact, I have noticed that sometimes my younger son will play for weeks with the same kids, often setting up a schedule. But my son never knows where the kids live.

I’ll hear an accent and I’ll say, “Where does he live?”

And my son will say, “Mom! I don’t know. No one asks that. Stop talking! They can hear you!”

Other times I’ll ask myself. I’ll say, “Hey, I’m the mom. I am wondering: where do you live?”

The kid will tell me—Australia, Cambodia, Pakistan—but the kids never ask in return. Because kids honestly just do not care where other kids live.

This is a great example of how parents are so inept at regulating behavior online. Parents don’t even understand what needs regulating.

Another example: 30% of kids in Europe use ad-blocking technology. It’s so powerful and easy-to-use that there are high-level meetings with the huge executives trying to figure out what to do about the loss in ad revenue.

Soon most kids in the US will use ad-blocking software (because it’s gamers who are leading the trend.) So all the knowledge and energy I’ve spent trying to manage the ads my kids see is about to be irrelevant.

So now, instead of spending time regulating my kids’ online behavior, I’m trying to just keep up with it. Which means that I was not surprised to see that 70% of views on YouTube are “let’s play” videos. I know what those are. And I know who PewDiePie is, and it feels better to understand than to squash.

11 replies
  1. Rayne
    Rayne says:

    We watch many Let’s Play videos on our living room tv through the Roku so that I can monitor the language. My kids like Stampylongnose, Dan TDM, Paul Sauros Jr., and Little Kelly. While I don’t play many of the games, I realized this weekend how much I know about the games from simply being in the room while they watch Let’s Play. I was in a group of adults discussing Minecraft this weekend and I realized, I’m the only one here who has any idea what the game really is, or about Mineplex, mini games, and on and on.

  2. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Thanks for this post! It made me reflect on my own online experiences growing up during the beginnings of online multiplayer gaming. I did a lot of online gaming back in the 90’s and we did not hesitate to tell where we were from, our ages, our gender…I exchanged addresses with several people and they would send me gifts and photos. It was the wild west back then. I think I remember one time my mom trying to put a time limit on my online gaming, and my response was something like, “What are you talking about? Why?” She didn’t even have a reason, except that she was fearful after reading scare tactic and fear-based stories. There was never any time limit imposed, by the way.

    It’s a different world from my days if kids really aren’t asking those questions. I admit that my kids haven’t played multi-player minecraft (except with eachother), although I have talked about setting up a private server with several people it never pans out.

    My kids are still at an age where I get an earful (and more) of whatever is going on in their gaming, and I have tried playing with them but it is really annoying being harassed by an 8 and 6 year old over what keys I need to press to do what I want. I used to rock online gaming! Now I’m a dud. My husband gets it though, so at least one of us does!!!

  3. MBL
    MBL says:

    I posted this on the careers blog, but it seems kind of applicable here too.

    I have recently become obsessed with youtuber boyinaband (yes he knows the name sucks and he has outgrown it feels regret.) His Don’t Stay in School has gone viral and has been featured on the parents react site and he has a video of him reacting to parents react–so meta. His video is about the need for things in the syllabus to not “stay in school” (but I wish he meant drop out and unschool.) It is sooooo sad to see some if the other reactions of adults who don’t understand that he is talking about the syllabus and think he is saying to drop out. That is such sad commentary upon the critical thinking skills of many people.

    FYI, he is not typically angry like he is in the original SDIS video. His videos that are in reference to this one show his goofiness.

    He has other hilarious videos of a rap battle between Gollum and Smeagol and one about the FPS game Trouble in Terrorist Town

    Through comments to his videos I heard about pewdiepie and the only video of his that I watched was him defending his $7,000,000 per year (and growing) earnings from talking about playing video games.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I LOVE Dave Brown!! Don’t stay in school and the Lord of the Rings videos are awesome! Very smart guy.

      • MBL
        MBL says:

        I’m so glad you liked Dave and didn’t mock my fan girling. (he has a video about fan girling kpop)

        He also has one about naysayers who insist that “internet friends aren’t real friends.” He often has thought experiments using cats, because…internet. And his “Lyric or Satiric” videos with Dan Bull are awesome. I just read that Dan says he has Asperger’s which I didn’t pick up on at all.

        Regarding asking where people live, no one has asked my 10 year old (ack! she just hit double digits) but they have asked how old she is and her gender. She doesn’t tell them. Of course here I am spilling everything…

  4. Lucy Chen
    Lucy Chen says:

    My son plays minecraft on his iPad, so he can only do local multiplayer, but he found another game (I forgot the game) that he can go on the Internet to multiplay. So far, he’s not that into multiplaying yet. He watches DanTDM on Youtube playing minecraft every day, and he even draws pictures of him (in minecraft form), and writes on the same paper, “I love DanTDM”.

  5. Lindsay
    Lindsay says:

    I think this is an extension of an age-old pattern: parents concerned about things that aren’t a threat, and clueless about things that are actually a threat. My parents were the same way with me in my pre-internet days of childhood.

    Ok fine, I’ll admit that parents *are* sometimes right as well :)

  6. Lisa Nielsen
    Lisa Nielsen says:

    You hit on an important shift.

    Parents of today’s youth made connections that were location-based. You had to be born in the right zip code to make meaningful connections.

    Today, connections are interest-based. We connect based on thoughts and ideas. Location doesn’t matter. That shift is full of opportunities for youth today.

  7. Will
    Will says:

    No mention of pornographic content? You have 2 boys nearing puberty, but online parental controls are mostly misguided?

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