I recently purchased an iPod Touch for my teenage son. He has been eyeing them for a very long time, and he actually has the money to buy one for himself. At the beginning of the school year, my husband and I told him that if he worked hard all year at school, we would buy him the iPod at the end of the school year. (After reading his persuasive essay on why he wanted the iPod, naturally.)
Late one Saturday night, he completed his coursework and so on Sunday, we set out to the Apple Store for the big purchase. My son and I had discussed the iPod many times and so I felt that I knew what I was buying and how it worked. I told my son before we even left for the store that there would be rules to accompany this gift (responsibilities to go with the privileges). One of the rules was that I was equipping it with parental control. He readily agreed. Though, that close to getting the iPod, he probably would have let me dye his hair fuschia!
At various stages in the transaction, my son reminded me to ask about the parental control, and I did. I was assured that I would be able to enable such a thing on the iPod. When you purchase something at the Apple store, they open it with you and get it started so that you go home with an item that is all set to go. During the set-up, I again asked about the parental control. The person serving us showed me what to do. I could either enable or disable the internet. That’s it. I explained to the clerk that this was not satisfactory. Obviously, since I was buying this particular product, I was allowing my son to use the internet; I simply wanted to filter it, like I do on our home computer. The clerk had no idea how to do what I wanted. He called over another, slightly older employee. This man heard what I was saying and said “I don’t know. Let’s do some research.” He turned to one of the store computers and discovered an app called “Surf Balance”. It looked like what I wanted and so I bought it for $4.99 and we went home.
For the next several hours, my son and I tested the iPod. WHat amazed me the most was that he could access anything at all through the iPod browser, even though I had set all sorts of filters on Surf Balance. The only way that Surf Balance has any effect is if I turn off the browser that comes with the iPod. This forces him to use Surf Balance to surf the web as there is no other browser available. Now, my restrictions were on effect.
Except, he could download any app at all and go wherever those app would take him. So, I disabled the app store. Now, anytime he wants an app, he needs to go through me.
I am not fool enough to think that we have thought of everything, nor that he hasn’t somehow outwitted me. But that isn’t really what this is about. As parents, we have a dual purpose: we must protect our children (from harmful influences); and we must prepare them for life in this world. In our efforts to prepare our children for the world, we need to be building a trusting relationship with our children. We need to be able to trust them as human beings. They need to be able to trust that we are there for them – to listen, to guide and to support.
I am blessed with a son I can trust, and one who appreciates that I must, at the same time, protect him from harm.