East of the Sun, West of the Moon


Oh, right, parenting

Filed under: Family,Humo(u)r — Erwin @ 11:12 pm

Two days ago A was apparently trying to find the website for his favourite soft drink. Nothing wrong with that, you’d think. His favourite soft drink is a diet drink (by necessity, most regular soft drinks contain corn syrup, which has to avoid) by the name of Diet Squirt.

The Firefox browser we provided for him has the default Google start page with the (default) preference setting Use moderate filtering. I had initially assumed Google’s defaults would be good enough, but now I see that this setting only filters images, nothing else.

So A, fairly innocent boy that he is, types something in the Google input field to find a website for his drink. Sure, no problem there you would think?

Right, except that he types in squirter.com (hope you weren’t drinking anything right as you read that), and follows the very first link that turns up in the results. Ouch! An indication of his innocent mindset is that he goes “Ewww”, and quickly closes the window!

One of the first things we did (after first verifying what exactly happened; proxy logs are helpful with that, as is the fact that browsers keep track of what you’ve entered into input fields) was to make sure both kids have their Google preferences set to strict but in the end the best thing we can do is make sure there is always someone vaguely keeping an eye on what they’re doing online. I refuse to set up some sort of cyber nanny, if we have to resort to anything of that sort I’d prefer to just set up a list of allowed sites, instead of the other way around.

On the plus side, at least I am not facing up to 40 years in prison because of this.

Ever had something like this happen around you?


  1. Geez.

    Not as a parent, but as a teacher, yes, I have experienced something similar. In my computer lab, we used to have a lot of problems with this. The hard part stems from the fact that the student’s vary so much in age. (Our school goes from 6th-12th). Surprisingly enough, even with the high school students, most of the problems were unintentional. Our filters have gotten a lot better, though. It is very rare that something gets through. (I don’t think we’ve had a problem this school year). Also, in the other direction, we haven’t had so many problems with sites being blocked unnecessarily. (For instance, it used to be hard for a high school student to research something about breast cancer, etc). Lastly, there’s just the good old fashioned eyeballing, like you said. I have a monitor on my desk that shows me the students’ screens. The pictures are small enough to protect their basic privacy… I’m not reading their every word. But if something crazy pops up, I can quickly blow up the screen to see it real-size, and control it if necessary.

    Comment by Erika — 2007/2/13 @ 5:45 pm

  2. How many students are in your room, typically? I mean, doesn’t that get old, having that grid of screens to glance at every few seconds/minutes? 🙂

    For the time being I’ve created a ‘start page’ to guide the kids towards a collection of known to be acceptable web game sites and such, that’s already a lot better than having them go through Google Search (because the youngest at least hasn’t heard of bookmarks yet, or even typing something into the location field). If that doesn’t help enough, I’ll consider the aforementioned list of allowed sites.

    Comment by Erwin — 2007/2/13 @ 7:36 pm

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