Turning off the internet on our eight-year-old daughter’s computer turned out to be one of the best parental decisions MM and I have made. Like many parents we constantly wrestle with how to control her access to media. I have always believed that outright bans of TV or internet are a bad idea; you just end up making whatever you’re banning more desirable. And they’ll find ways of gaining that access through friends anyway. Wouldn’t you rather be around when they’re consuming media to make sure they’re picking up the critical skills they need? So we haven’t banned her internet use altogether. If she wants to check email or log onto a favourite web site, she can do so on our computers while we’re hanging around.
But she rarely asks to go online these days. Instead she has channeled her considerable creativity into making stuff on her computer. She writes stories in Pages (complete with images from iPhoto), edits slideshows with audio commentary and music in iMovie, designs multimedia programs in Scratch (a kids programming environment from MIT) and, just now, she came in to tell me about a comedy podcast she’s writing. When she had access to the internet on her computer, she always wanted to consume. Now she’s producing her own content.
And the most incredible thing of all is that she has figured out how to do this stuff on her own. I showed her Pages and she took it from there. She discovered iMovie herself and figured out how to make the slideshows. I’m not bringing this up to brag, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glowing with pride at this. I bring this up because it’s surprising what happens when you limit your child’s easy access to media consumption. They’re full of creativity and I’d bet that they would rather produce than consume any day.