by Michael Kline

Hoo boy! Have you seen what’s on the internet these days? The better question might be, “What ISN’T on the internet these days?”

I really don’t wish to go into a lot of detail here, as we are all aware of the lengths that some people will go to in order to be noticed. Heck, I blog to be noticed. Sometimes I even offer advice, which is lot like a penguin trying to explain quantum theory to a physicist. Anyway…

This whole interactive world is something that our parents could not have even imagined. Tweets from Syrian rebels? A toilet-seat-sitting cat on YouTube? And get this… your news on a ‘tablet’ that automatically updates itself as the news happens? What is going on? What ever happened to network television, books (with paper) that you can actually smell and turn the pages of, and good old over-the-fence gossip? I laugh when I imagine my grandfather trying to explain to me that he had trouble “logging on.”

Progress. That is what is going on. And love it or hate it, progress is here to stay. So how do keep your kids shielded from all of this ‘progress’?

You don’t. And why should you? Invention and innovation is a wonderful thing. Without it we would still be using Pony Express for our mail, we would be getting our light from gas lamps and our warmth from a log fire. There was a time when people would say that listening to music from a CD wasn’t “real.” Was listening to that same music from a round disk of vinyl considered “real”? Come on!

Stopping progress is not an option either, unless you move into the woods, construct a comfortable little hut (a la Henry David Thoreau and Walden), and develop a fondness for trout and blueberries. At which point, by the way, you haven’t stopped progress, you’ve just chosen to ignore it.

Here is a bit of news for you. No matter how hard you try, no matter how many sites you block, and no matter how many cords you pull on the kids’ computers, they will still find ways to track down some of that “less than scholarly” content, especially if they have any contact at all with their peers. But there is something you can do.

Grab a cup of coffee (or glass of wine if it’s after, say, 6 o’clock), sit down with your kids at the computer, and start exploring. The best learning experience of any kind is when it’s shared. Do a bit of roaming around the internet with your charges. Find some funny stuff. YouTube is rife with it. You’ll find some amazing technologies as well. Ever hear of a nano quadrotor? Here’s the link.

And yes, occasionally you will come across something that is not funny or clever, but questionable. That is when the conversation should really start. Explain to your kids why something is inappropriate, and how it can hurt others. Ask them what their thoughts are on the subject. Do other kids their age talk about things like that in school? Is there a time when questionable material should be allowed? And who determines what is decent and what isn’t?

The internet is really no different than television or books or most other types of media. There is just a lot of it, and it is much more immediate. And just as with anything else where children are concerned, it is best experienced together. Make a plan to be with them when questions arise, and not just questions from the internet. They listen to you more than you know.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go up-launch another picket on my gherkin blog. (Just kidding. I have no idea what that means.) 🙂

Teach. Learn. Enjoy!

Michael Kline

Michael Kline is the oldest youngster you will ever meet. An artistic contributor to Kids Discover for 20+ years, he is also the illustrator of The Doodles of Sam Dibble (Penguin Young Readers), a raucous account of a consummate third-grade doodler. Michael lives in Wichita, KS with his very understanding wife and feline office managers. He can be found at