Last night, I was engaged in a forum discussion with a 15 year old teenager on MacRumors. If you'd like to follow the action, you can view the forum thread here. Here's the gist of the conversation:
A poster had started a thread asking if anybody knew of a parental controls application for the iPod touch. She was worried about her child accessing the internet and downloading applications via the App Store. The teen responded by saying that she was too controlling; if she didn't trust her child to use an iPod touch, what was she going to do when she became eligible to drive? He then proceeded to state the reasons why he had a huge problem with filtering solutions like Mobicip. If you are installing a filtering device, there's either 2 things going on; 1) you don't trust your child and they'll resent you for it, or 2) your child is too young and you shouldn't be purchasing a device for them.
To me, his opinion is too black and white. Ultimately, there are well-documented dangers lurking within the internet. As a parent (well, not really...I don't have kids yet, but I do have 4 young nieces!), parents have the responsibility to protect their children from all dangers in life, both digitally and physically. Just because you install a filtering device on your child's device does not mean you don't trust them; you're just installing a tool to help eliminate some of the dangers of the internet. As an analogy, you wouldn't buy a car for your teenager that didn't have an airbag, right?
Secondly, I think kids are using the internet at an earlier age now more than ever, regardless of whether they are browsing on a computer/laptop or a device like the iPod touch. In fact, recent surveys have shown that internet usage is eating away at the time children spend watching television. The reality is, younger and younger children are accessing the internet, and many may not be as responsible as the teen I was conversing with (I'll give him credit, he does sound very tech savvy and responsible). Filtering solutions are not a necessity, but parents should definitely have the OPTION to install one if they so choose.
One area where I do agree with him is that parents must go over ground rules with their child regarding internet usage, regardless of whether they use a filtering solution or not. Communications is a key component of earning trust and instilling in your child responsible browsing. When I was growing up, the message was much simpler; DON'T EVER TALK TO STRANGERS! Times have certainly changed. In this day and age, the internet is becoming commonplace in our world and it's up to us to protect those that may not know any better.
I would love to hear various opinions. Thoughts?