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Resolutions for an Online Family

January 10th, 2011 Posted in Lifestyle

Resolutions for an Online Family

I discovered over the holidays that my husband is a bigger nerd than I realized. How nerdy? Well, he finally hooked up our Wii to the Internet — and that’s not the nerdy part. Our new Web-enabled Wii brings the number of devices that can go online in our house up to 10. Thanks to his techno prowess, we now have four laptops, three TVs, a desktop computer, an iPhone, and an iPod Touch.

Needless to say, my hubby is in geek heaven. And I admit I love the ability to buy a book on Amazon or check Epicurious from every square inch of my house. But with a game-obsessed, Facebook-curious, cell phone-wielding, YouTube-loving 12-year-old son (and his friends) to keep an eye on, the Wii hook-up seriously ups the ante. It’s one more device that I have to patrol to make sure no one’s downloading age-inappropriate games, buying stuff, or watching girl fight videos.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Wii, and I hate the idea of it being an object of torment rather than a source of fun. But how will I be able to maintain our family’s healthy electronic pursuits and balance my husband’s weakness for new gadgets, my fondness for online shopping, and my son’s curiosity for everything on the Internet? Time for some good old fashioned New Year’s resolutions.

And not the garden-variety “no Twinkies” resolutions. This year, with the Internet encroaching from literally every angle and my son’s yearning for games and burgeoning interest in social media, I know that I need to redouble my vigilance to help keep his online world safe, smart, and sound. At the rate we’re acquiring digital paraphernalia, the online temptations will only increase, so my New Year’s resolutions focus on embracing — within reason — the opportunities, while still asserting my own parental authority. My husband? He’s on his own.

What I Pledge for the New Year

Play games with my kid. Playing games with him occasionally is the best way to get to know what he’s doing, what he likes, and even who he’s playing against in multiplayer games.

Discuss responsible online behavior — seriously.
Now that MMO and IM are a part of my son’s vocabulary, he needs to understand respectful online communication.

However awkward, continue to talk to my kid’s friends’ parents about my media rules. Whether the kids play at my house or theirs, I bring up gaming time restrictions, which sites are off-limits, and what movie ratings I’m comfortable with.

Resist the urge to be the “Internet Police.”
Since my son is on the verge of becoming a teen, I want to empower him to regulate his own usage.

Talk about commercials.
Help my kid recognize the tricks that advertisers use — including ad placements all over his favorite websites — so he’ll be a savvier consumer.

Say “yes” a little bit more.
He needs to know that I trust his judgment on his media choices. I may not love everything he loves (like The Simpsons), but if I know what he’s watching and playing, I can still talk to him about it.

No texting and driving.
OK, this one’s for me. I know that the way I interact with media influences his behavior. My phone is now riding in the back seat.

Insist on outdoor playtime.
Grand Slam Tennis and Baseball Blast just aren’t the same. To truly appreciate the joys of the tech world, you’ve gotta be rooted in the real world.

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