Are You A Digital Spy?

I was reading an article this morning about how parents and teens sometimes awkwardly exist together on the social network Facebook.  The article was about how certain teens feel very uncomfortable being “friends” with their folks on Facebook.  I am imagining that one of the reasons for their discomfort is worry over whether mom or dad might be using the network to spy on them or track their activities and friends.

I think that is a valid worry, at least in some cases.  I definitely didn’t join Facebook to look over Uber’s shoulder, but since he has been kind enough to “friend” me and his dad, we probably do find out little tidbits of info about him that we might not know otherwise.  But in general, Uber has sort of an open-book personality anyway.  When H-T gets on Facebook (OMG, that kid will be 13 in just over a month!!!), I can see him being far more reticent to make me and dad privy to his online dealings.  He is just a far more private kiddo.

But the truth is, that the digital age makes us somewhat of an open book to anyone who happens to really want to know about us.  I imagine that if I had your full name, your blog name, and possibly a couple other of your online id’s, I could find out some pretty detailed info about each and every one of you.  If we are online, we are kind of vulnerable.

monitor So, the question is…do you ever take advantage of that vulnerability to dig deeper into your kids’ online lives?  Our internet filter, for instance, has a history feature, that lets me, if I so choose, check up on each and every site my kids have visited.  It would take me less than three minutes to scan over their entire catalog of current interests, obsessions, and possible misdeeds.  Have I used this feature?  Of course I have.  And not just to protect them from evil, either.  Sometimes, I’m just curious.  Nosy, even.  I really try to squelch this in myself, but it does come out at times.

So, here is a place for you to confess…no confession box required.  Are you a digital spy?  Have you looked at your kids IM history?  Their text messages?  Their web hits?  Or have you hit paydirt, and discovered a secret blog they have, or online journal? 

You can tell me.  I won’t squeal.  But I might possibly steal your ideas if they are particularly sneaky…

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Wanna Play A Party Game??

Anybody like parties?  Anybody like prizes?  Anybody like blogging?  What’s that you say?  Yes? Yes? and Yes?  Then you are at the right blog!  This week we are celebrating the Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom.  This is a time for all things fun, frivolous, and festive.  And to clip_image002sweeten the deal, I’m personally offering a $10 EBay gift certificate to one random visitor who visits my blog via the Ultimate Blog Party link  (#1240) between March 11th and March 14th, and emails me at ttfn@topsy-techie.com with the correct answer to the  question below.  Be sure and include your name and email address when you write me, so I can get you your winning certificate!

This blog is a baby…only three months old.  I started it after taking a terrific online blogging class, and I settled on a theme – –  my Topsy Techie life.  I am a homeschooling mom to two boys, ages 12 and 13, and we tend to find some way to fit technology into almost everything we do around here.  It makes for a bit of chaos, and a decent amount of hilarity, but we love our life, and we look forward to sharing it with you.  To find out more about me, please take and sec and visit my About Me page!  Then take a few minutes and read about some of the high-tech hijinks in our Topsy Techie life.

Oh…and don’t forget to enter my contest!!

All you have to do is scan the one of my recent blog entries to find the answer to this question:

**What is the name of our current internet filter?**

Best of luck to the winner!  I am thrilled to have each one of you stop by and visit me here in Topsy-Techie land. Ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear??

I’m Sorry If This Blog Has Been Blurred Out

If you have a child at home under the age of 18, and your child has access to the web, you probably subscribe to, or have at least considered subscribing to an internet filtering service. We have had at least seven different filters over the years. You would think that they would all be pretty similar, and that any one of them would work as well as another one, but that’s really not the case.

We started back in our naïve years with a wonderful “free” parental filter that came with our DSL service. We were already paying $19.95 a month for internet service, which seemed like a travesty at the beginning of the new millennium, so we were thrilled to have a free filter thrown in as a bonus. Thrilled, that is, until I walked by and found my six year old plonlinepokeraying online poker with presumably more mature strangers who misspelled curse words and probably opened beer bottles with their teeth. Much to Uber’s dismay, the poker game was quickly over, and so was our relationship with our free filter. (I have to admit, I was reluctant to stop the game though…the little guy was beating the pants off poor Git’erdun877)

  Filter #2 was a respectable filter that we purchased at Staples, and installed on our family computer. It had the name of something along the lines of Cyber Alert, and it worked remarkably well. So well, in fact, that my husband and I were no longer able to check the news, our church website, or even an email from R-T’s aunt (who was 78). Apparently there was a crack in the Pentagon security system, a weed problem in the church parking lot, and an issue with dear auntie’s muscle cream, which didn’t seem to penetrate deeply enough to give her any real relief. Needless to say, that program was a bust.

On to other filters. There was the one that my son figured out how to change the administrator password on (when it asked me if I wanted to keep my password as ‘Pokemon’, I started to catch on). There was a filter that froze our computer every time we logged on – – but boy was the security tight on that one. And then there was that terrific filter that recognized “skin” and would blur it out in images to avoid accidentally viewing porn. I don’t know if it frustrated R-T or the boys, but it drove me up the wall. Have you ever tried to buy a swimsuit online when you had to squint sideways to make out the pattern??

Which brings us to our current filter, iProtect You. So far, so good. Not only does it block objectionable sites, but it let’s me know everyone’s surfing habits as well. So, as far as I know, the boys haven’t been able to access bomb blueprints, gambling rings, or Pamela Anderson’s bedroom webcam. It hasn’t, however, blocked me from wasting hours trying to locate a swimsuit that will be slimming and flattering for a pear shaped figure. Well, I guess no filter is perfect.