We are playing with coloring books with lots of dinosaurs and lots of dinosaur stickers. I can’t identify all of them so we, the kids and I, decide to go on the Internet to do some dinosaur research. I can’t deal with all these raptors without a hard copy reference, but I have a new printer, so first I need to download software.
“On average how many calories are burned during sex?”
“90? 160? or 360?”
Uh, I don’t know. I just need to identify some dinosaurs and I can’t remember the difference between the Velociraptor and the other kinds of raptors and my son is really into raptors.
As my 8-year old stands over my shoulder and says nothing, I’ve probably missed a learning opportunity about how to use the Internet, but I just want that question off my screen as quickly as possible so I can pretend it was never there.
Then I realize how easy it was for that question to come up on my screen. I went to some website I thought would help me download printer software and I am getting sex questions? Oh dear.
And this entire episode reminds me of the other software I keep meaning to download, the parental controls software. A few weeks ago my 8-year-old told me that her 5-year old brother had her look up “butt” on the Internet.
I looked at her in disbelief.
“You looked up ‘butt’ on the Internet?”
“No, he did,” pointing at her 5-year-old brother, “But he doesn’t know how to spell so he made me do it.”
“He made you do it?”
“He’s 5, and he made you do it?”
At this point they are both giggling so hard that my son is literally on the floor laughing. And all I can do in my infinite parenting wisdom is mutter something along the lines of “Well don’t look up ‘butt’ on the Internet anymore.”
My husband thinks the entire 5-year-old looking up “butt” on the Internet is pretty funny, too, until I point out the risk involved here, and then he gets serious and wants to know what they found.
“Well,” I tell him, “luckily your son thought looking up ‘elephant butt’ was even funnier than just looking up ‘butt’ so they found a picture of some guy who got his head stuck in an elephant’s ass.”
And now my husband is laughing.
“OMG is this in your DNA? It’s not funny!? Your 5-year-old son is looking up ‘butt’ on the Internet.”
My husband then tells me that 60 percent of all Internet searches are for porn and he asks what exactly is my plan.
I don’t really have plan, don’t know what to do. What are we supposed to do? We can put all sorts of controls on cable and Internet at home. We can be careful about our language and what videos games we never buy, monitor what we read or watch. But pornography is out there, and it’s accessible. Nothing we can do at home will change that.
So I guess all I can do, all we can do, is teach them what we do want them know. And try to do a better job of capturing those learnable moments. Yeah, and be more careful when we need to download printer software or do Internet searches looking for answers.
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.