Is Technology Taking Over Our Child’s Life?

To answer the title of this article, YES, technology is has taking over.  When I think back to when I was a child, heck even less than 10 years ago, none of the technology available today was around.  Guess what?  We all survived.

Our kids on the other hand, seem to think they cannot live without some sort of computer/phone/tablet in their hands.  I actually think it’s kind of sad.  As a little girl, I created so many games and would spend hours outside.  My kids…yes they love playing sports outside (phew), but they don’t need to create anything.  Everything they could imagine and desire is right at their fingertips.  Technology has certainly replaced creativity.

Yes, educational games are wonderful and there are even games that aren’t educational that spark creativity, but to me, I would rather my child build something that is real, with their actual hands.  This is the world we live in today.  Technology has brought us amazing things but it also has brought stress, lack of socializing and is very addicting.

My older son is 10, going on 40 and when it comes to online activity, he plays by the rules but when the rules change, he is not having it.  He recently became obsessed with a game called, “ROBLOX”, which I had never heard of.  To be honest, I thought it was some sort of building game, which according to their website, it is.

“ROBLOX is an online virtual playground and workshop, where kids of all ages can safely interact, create, have fun, and learn. It’s unique in that practically everything on ROBLOX is designed and constructed by members of the community.”  Sounds good to me and when I read that, I honestly didn’t dive in much further…my bad.

“We believe in the theory that kids learn best by making things; by engaging in the creative and complex process of imagining, designing, and constructing. Provide them with a safe place to build, give them the requisite tools, and let them play. We’re particularly inspired by the educational theory pioneered by Seymour Papert of the MIT Media Lab. This theory — labeled “Constructionism” — holds not only that kids learn best when they are in the active roles of designer and builder, but that their learning is optimized when they’re assuming these roles in a public forum.”  Okay, I agree with all of that but not sure if it applies to ALL the games available on the site, which I did not know.

When my son approached me to download this game, I was definitely on board because it sounded great and I thought it was educational.  He also told me a bunch of his friends were on it.  I am again, definitely at fault for not digging deep enough into the site because to my surprise, some of the games within ROBLOX you can play, are violent and inappropriate for young kids.

“ROBLOX Corporation is a member in the kidSAFE Seal Program, which has been approved by the Federal Trade Commission as an authorized safe harbor under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. ”  According to their website, “The kidSAFE Seal Program is an independent safety certification service and seal-of-approval program designed exclusively for children-friendly websites and technologies, including online game sites, educational services, virtual worlds, social networks, mobile apps, tablet devices, connected toys, and other similar online and interactive services.”

I love there is a service that does this but just not sure how you can consider a site that offers games with weapons a children-friendly site.  Am I that out of it?  I know kids will be kids and will make guns our of anything.  My kid used to shape his sandwich bread into a gun, so there you go.

The other thing I loved is the idea of a parent control platform on ROBLOX, but apparently, it no longer exists.  Not sure why they would take something like that away.  I believe with that function you could block certain games.

Recently, my son told me someone called him an “idiot” on the site and just as I taught him, he did not engage in the conversation as he is never allowed to communicate with anyone online.  I am really proud of him for telling me and I know kids say the word, “idiot”, but what bothered me is I wonder if this person was a 10 year old, 18 year old or 40 year old?  When you can “make friends” on the site, that scares me.

I know I can’t protect my children from everything and believe me, I would not consider myself a strict parent, but while they are young, I can try my best.  What bothers me is the site claims to be one thing and it is not.  I would love to be proved otherwise and get more educated.

What sparked my concern aside from seeing him play the game? I started to think something was fishy when a few weeks ago, we pulled into our local airfare base for golf lessons and while checking our credentials, my son proceeded to ask the guard on duty if he was holding an M4.  WHAT?  How the heck did he know that?  Really? My son was spot on…it was an M4!  Guess where he learned that? ARGH.

I am really confused and don’t understand why they would offer these violent games if the whole idea is to be creative and educational.  Kids of all ages can safely interact?  Again, how do I know he is not playing with an adult predator who could message him?  I don’t.

Due to my doubt, my son and I are actually sitting down this weekend so he can show me what the site is all about.  He of course wants to prove it is not that bad.  While I don’t negotiate with my kids or need their permission to take something away, me not wanting him to use the site has nothing to do with him doing anything wrong or being punished for something he did.  Therefore,  I am willing to listen.  I think he may be a lawyer one day. ?  He’s good…really good!

My son is a wonderful boy and is so upset with me for wanting to take away his ROBLOX.  To him, he thinks he did do something wrong even though I explained otherwise.  I should have intervened a while ago but I was uneducated and failed to take further steps.  The internet is a scary place and when our kids have access, who knows what can happen.  My son looked up an image the other day for a school project and the choices that popped up were horrifying.  How could I have prevented that?  I couldn’t.

I feel terrible that my son is so sad.  I explained that as his mom, my job is to protect him as much as I possibly can.  I am not considering taking his game away because I am mad at him or disciplining him, but because kids need limits.  Sometimes, we as parents have to say, “no”.  Did we want to hear “no” as a kid?  NO!  Of course not.  I get it but I can’t ignore this whole situation just so my child won’t hate me.  No matter what I do they will blame me when they are older for screwing them up somehow. Isn’t that how it works?

I know it is hard for kids today to handle all of this technology.  It is all they know.   There are exciting opportunities online calling their name and it is always available.  They see older kids or even kids the same age playing something and wonder, “Why aren’t I allowed to do that?”.  They think because they are well behaved, they have earned the right to push limits and do things that are not age appropriate.

When did the world get so complicated? Why do our kids have to be exposed to things that they shouldn’t be exposed to?  I would like to think for the most part, we know who our child’s friends are, possibly even their parents, their teachers, coaches and what they are learning at school, right?  When we expose them to the internet, that security goes out the window and to a parent, that is really unsettling.

I asked my friends on Facebook about this topic and this particular game and got responses similar to my reaction.  It was nice to read that other parents also set rules about gaming and the internet and agreed with the violent content of ROBLOX.  If you look at the online parent reviews for ROBLOX through Common Sense Media, (the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology), you will learn we are not alone with our concerns.

“Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices and offers the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.”  Their actual review of ROBLOX is definitely outdated but is more transparent than what ROBLOX claims. “Parents need to know that Roblox is a game-creation site where users design and upload their own games, as well as play other games in a multiplayer environment. Some of the gameplay is advanced, and many games employ weapons. The site provides a super-safe chat mode for those under 13, as well as a parent log-in where you can oversee your child’s use of the site.”

Again, where is this parent portal?  Oh and how is it that someone was able to communicate with my child if they are not “friends” with him?  There  is some really good information I found from ROBLOX on chat rooms, filtering, age and privacy permissions, which I suggest you read.  It all sounds wonderful and exactly what I would want, yet many of the reviews contradict these details.

There are going to be lots of games and choices out there with similar issues.  Take Minecraft for example.  If you claim to be something you are not, I have a problem with that, especially when it involves my children.  All I ask is to be told up to date information on how my child is going to be protected once they are addicted to your site.

What is your way of handling the internet when it comes to your kids?