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Managing the Online Teenager?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the parental-anxiety-for-digital-separation dept.

Communications 189

Parenting Pains asks: "I've got two teenagers, whose peer group have 'discovered' the Internet over the course of this year. We've gone from two bright happy lively teenagers at the start of the year, to now having two people who rarely venture outdoors except under duress and are close to unbearable unless they're ensconced online with 'friends' on MSN for hours at a time. Over recent months, this has gone from mildly amusing to out of hand, with them spending up to 10-12 hours a day on weekends online with friends. Many Slashdot readers must have confronted this situation; how have you dealt with it, and what were the outcomes of what you did? Do you just let the kids stay online till they got sick of it, and how long did it take? Do you ban them from using MSN? Do you limit the number of hours they can be online?""When they're not online, they're grumpy, demanding, constantly nagging, etc. (i.e. normal teenagers) - frankly it's easier for us when they are online, but not for that many hours at a sitting.

We made a decision up front to trust their judgement and not monitor who they talk to and what they talk about, but I'm starting to question the wisdom of this right about now. Not for any specific reason; there's just a little nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me there's something wrong with this."

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189 comments

pr0n (4, Funny)

austad (22163) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909831)

Introduce them to pr0n. That will keep them off IM.

Re:pr0n (1)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909864)

No no no! Then they'll spend all day trying to find people on IM to swap pictures with or try to find "web cam buddies." Making teenagers hornier is a BAD idea... Instead, just adjust the monitor so that it hurts their eyes to look at it for more than an hour at a time. Long term damage? Maybe. But at least they'll be 4-eyed socialites instead of 20-20 outcasts. Either that or chop their hands off... that way IM *and* porno are both pointless...

Re:pr0n (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910143)

Either that or chop their hands off... that way IM *and* porno are both pointless...


They can still type with the nose, you know...

Re:pr0n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10911101)

Yeah, but unless you're waaaaay more flexible than me, it completely eliminates the effectiveness of p0rn...

Re:pr0n (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911163)

They can still type with the nose, you know...

Not far off...I knew a guy who had to use a mouthpiece to type on a keyboard. At the time, he was a faster typist than I was. (But then, I was only ten or eleven years old, and that was ten years ago.

Re:pr0n (3, Interesting)

austad (22163) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909886)

Also realize that they probably have a ton of friends that use IM. If they only talk to each friend for a few mins, it could take up a large part of the day.

Plus, IM is usually something I do when browsing the net and screwing around. If I find a neat link, I'll send it to a few friends, which usually results in a conversation about whatever it is. In any case, they are still being social. If they locked themselves in a dark room all day and didn't talk to anyone, it would be more cause for concern. Not everything people do on the net is bad. It's arguable that IM could help develop good communication skills too, as long as they aren't abbreviating every damn word.

Honestly, I doubt they are doing anything questionable. IM seems to have replaced the phone that teens used to love so much.

Re:pr0n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910069)

Honestly, I doubt they are doing anything questionable. IM seems to have replaced the phone that teens used to love so much.

Plus you can secretly log all their IM conversations so you can know what they are REALLY doing.

Re:pr0n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910482)

Ethereal == God

Unless the kids are super-genuises, ethereal installed on the router works excellently and is completely undetectable.

Let them spend as much time at it as they want (2, Insightful)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909832)

After they're done with their chores.

Just make sure to give them lots of chores.

Re:Let them spend as much time at it as they want (1)

missing000 (602285) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909895)

I second that, but I also strongly suggest banning the household from both MSN and AOL.

If you want them to develop computing skills get them shell accounts.

Re:Let them spend as much time at it as they want (1)

KDan (90353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910685)

If you do that, all you'll get is file sharing irc curries instead of msn junkies... Probably spend at least as much time, possibly more. At least you'll get some serious music collection built up in no time :-D

Daniel

Re:Let them spend as much time at it as they want (1)

maskedbishounen (772174) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909906)

I agree 100%. Actually, the question describes me perfectly -- and still does.

If it's creating a problem, remove it or keep them from it. If access is removed, they'll simply find some other route to get to it. If you keep them away from it, through some clever method you'll have to think of, they might realize what whatever they're doing is a lot more fun than "LOL"'ing with their friends online.

Personally, I've taken up baking. Keeps me away from the desire, and fills me with yummy cookies, cakes, etc.

If all else fails, buy them a console and PSO. Not that it will make them any more social, but it's a lot more fun. ;)

Good luck~

Re:Chores vs. Online Time (3, Insightful)

poena.dare (306891) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910779)

I agonized heavily, relentlessly, endlessly, hell, I'm still agonizing about this with my 9 year old son who has taken up the EverQuest addiction just when I was able to kick the habit. *shakes fist at sky* DAMN YOU EVERQUEST!

As a result I have developed a weird mishmash of arbitrary rules and semi-biblical provisions which has served me well. OK, I'm lying, it hasn't served me well - but - it's a starting point. To wit:

On the division of FREETIME it shall be thus:

1/2 of the time shall be spent doing things that THE FATHER approves of (reading, listening to music, exercise, hobbies, artistic endeavors, worship of deity or deities approved of beforehand, etc).

1/2 of the time shall be spent doing things that THE CHILD desires (subject to state and local laws).

SATURDAY IS A FREE DAY, for no one should be made to worketh on a Saturday.

FREETIME shall be defined as the time left AFTER school work is completed and chores are accomplished.

Time spent doing otherwise prohibited activities with THE FATHER or THE MOTHER shall not count as time deducted from THE CHILD. For example, playing games of THE CONSOLE with THE FATHER or watching THE TV with THE MOTHER.

And finally, I say unto THE CHILD, LO you should be GRATEFUL that I let you playeth the GAMES VIOLENT and haveth ONLINE CHATS unsupervised for there are many parents whom do not alloweth behaviors such. DO NOT MAKETH ME REGET MINE DECISION!

Where are the computers? (4, Insightful)

MacBrave (247640) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909843)

Do these teens have computers in their own rooms? Is so, you should strongly think about removing them.

Only have 1-2 computers in your house with internet access and place them in 'common' areas. That way you can better monitor their online usage and curb it back.

Re:Where are the computers? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10909902)

That might work fine for 'normal' teens, but I would strongly recommend against it if they're of the 'geeky variety' (which he didn't say they were..)
If I had no computer in my room when I was growing up, I have no idea where I would be today.
Sure, sometimes I spent 7+ hours a day on it during the summer, but I'm also not out of highschool yet and am proficient in Perl, PHP, MySQL, and C++. I run Gentoo Linux servers, and make good money with technical jobs.
Without a computer of my own, I would have never been able to install GNU/Linux and discover all the possibilities that it brings.

Re:Where are the computers? (2, Interesting)

LouCifer (771618) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910015)

Why is this a bad idea for 'geeky' teens? So what if the computers are in a common area? Its not like he'll be telling them not to code or study.

Having the computers in a common area isn't going to keep the teens from using them for something other than chatting and could keep them from chatting too much.

Re:Where are the computers? (1)

NuclearDog (775495) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910586)

"Having the computers in a common area isn't going to keep the teens from using them for something other than chatting"

Think again.

I finally convinced a friend to try something non-ms (in the form of the Knoppix live-cd). The first time he was trying it, his mom came into the room and shouted "OH MY GOD! YOU BROKE THE COMPUTER!" Luckily, she's a *lot* more understanding than your typical computer illiterate parent.

Personally, I quite like having my computers to myself. No parents who don't understand the computers themselves making the rules.

ND

Re:Where are the computers? (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911237)

If I had no computer in my room when I was growing up, I have no idea where I would be today.

Probably on skid row drinking Thunderbird out of a brown paper bad, or in Hell's Angels.

You talk about computing like an evangelical talks about their conversion.

Re:Where are the computers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10909907)

This is the best idea I've seen. Place one or two computers in the most widely used room of the house (like the living room/family room). They will naturally curb their usage because you'll be able to look over their shoulder at any moment. Leaving them in the bedrooms is a BAD idea.

Re:Where are the computers? (1)

crath (80215) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911234)

Here's our family's approach to managing the computer:

  • the computer is in the family room, where everyone can see what you're doing
  • no computer access of any kind until you can read or write (this motivated the 3 younger, of 4, children to learn to read by their 5th birthdays)
  • weekdays, limit game-playing to 30 minutes per day (TV is also limited to 30 minutes per day); weekends, the limit is 60 minutes
  • no limit on amount of computer time used to do homework, write letters, write computer programs, reserving books at the local public library, or anything else that isn't just pure entertainment

Sure the kids do a bit of IMing during non-entertainment tasks; but as long as they "manage" this diversion we allow it.

I went thru this myself (teenager point of view) (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10909855)

Do try to talk to them but make it clear from the beginning that its up to them.

At some point they will realize that online life is just a charade.
But they have to discover it themself, if you tell them they wont belive you.

Ask them about a girlfriend, or boyfriend. Do they have one? Do they want one? Maybe not at this point?
If they are girls the usual reaction from a father would be "Oh god, a boyfriend".
But eventually they will have one anyway, its better than staying online the whole time.

For me, beeing online was my life, I spent roughly 2 years playing EverQuest (Theres was/is? a command showing you the hours played added up). But at one point I figured out thats not life.

But as I said, THEY have to figure that out. If you combat it you'll loose ground - they will not listen to you and life will be an endless fight with them.
Its an addiction, its a way of life. You cannot talk them out of it, you can only observe it and give them help when they are ready to quit it.

Re:I went thru this myself (teenager point of view (4, Insightful)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909966)

No, no, no. Your job as a parent is not to be your child's friend. Your job as a parent is to raise these children to be productive, successful, responsible adults (where "success" should not be defined solely in terms of money). THEY do not need to figure it out. YOU do. YOU need to take the responsibility to teach them responsibility - where else will they learn it from, their teenage friends who are going through the same growth process (hormones, brain still growing, etc.)?

That said, YOU also have to determine if it is actually a problem or not. Putting the computers in a public area is more than reasonable - but same goes for other activities, like TV, game consoles, etc. The bedroom should be a private place where a child can go to relax, find refuge, do homework. It shouldn't be Disneyland.

Chances are, if the computer is in a public area, 10-12 hours per weekend of online time won't be a bad thing. But YOU will be in a better position to make that judgement. And THEY will be less likely to try.

Just my 2 cents.

Re:I went thru this myself (teenager point of view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910141)

Umm, that didnt work for me, I had to figure it out myself, whatever my parent said, I did it the other way.
Still now I'm successfull running my own business at 21, living in a distant city.

Re:I went thru this myself (teenager point of view (1)

tenman (247215) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910499)

Right on! Now stop blaming the school system because your kids can't pass the 3rd grade for the ninth time. After all, it is YOUR responsability to make sure your kids is giving 110%, right? ya with me on this one?

"Everybody follow me, we're going streaking through the quad. COME ON!!!"

Re:I went thru this myself (teenager point of view (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910796)

Don't take the PCs out of their bedrooms. As a 16 year old kid, I know how important it is to have a private place where I child can go to relax- and talk to their friends in private. You don't expect me to be able to hear everything you say; don't expect that you can hear whatever I say. If you don't trust me enough to give me my privacy, I'll take it. Whether I spend all my time sending encrypted e-mail from school, an internet cafe, or wherever; I WILL speak in private.
Parents have to trust their children.

I truly pity your children. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910925)

Your job as a parent is not to be your child's friend. Your job as a parent is to raise these children to be productive, successful, responsible adults

Who said it was someone's *JOB* to be their child's friend?

Whyise being their friend and fulfilling your "job" of raising them mutually exclusive?

Most importantly, why do you think that you can't be a responsible parent without antagonizing your child?

Re:I went thru this myself (teenager point of view (1)

Slime-dogg (120473) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911007)

I don't know about that. I do know that I've never had a computer or a television in my room until very recently, when I moved out of the house. Instead of spending hours in my room on the computer, I spent hours in the common area on the computer.

My little sister used to use the phone all of the time. She would go insane if you didn't let her use it, with all of her whining and screaming. She then discovered AIM, and it completely opened up the phone for everyone else. She used to bitch at me to get off the computer then, if I were using it.

So, if you have more than one kid who is interested in IM, and you only have one computer, you had better teach them how to share... and how to deal with disappointment. Otherwise, you're going to have a high frequency of loud and annoying fights.

IM is relatively harmless, too. Of course, they could be talking to FBI agents in one window and pedophiles in another, but it's up to you to ensure that they exercise good judgement in who they talk to. Remember McGruff? Don't talk to strangers? Take a bite out of crime? The same rules apply to on-line interactions. Make sure that they are talking to their friends or family.

If you're worried about them not getting out, you should be happy. Teenage kids get mixed up in things that are far worse than IM, with consequences that could last a lifetime. Be happy that they're inside, where you can keep an eye on them, instead of out getting high or pregnant.

Re:I went thru this myself (teenager point of view (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911149)

Amen.

Plus, if you don't set some rules, who are they going to rebel against?

Seriously, the struggle to establish their own independent identity is an important part of becoming an adult. If you just sit back and "trust their judgement," then they will become independent by the default, because you've declared yourself irrelevant. If you set arbitrary, inflexible and unreasonable rules, you are likewise out of the picture.

So, I say set clear, reasonable and strict rules then make them argue a reasoned compromise if they diagree. Then they'll become the kind of adult who can speak up for themsleves while hearing the other side.

Set boundries! (1, Insightful)

cs668 (89484) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909859)

You are the parent!!

Tell them that they can have 2 hours and that is it. They are teenagers they will break that rule and then you provide a consequence.

As far as it being easier for you when they are online, tough parenting is hard work.

I do think it is great that you trust them and let them have time online to themselves, but you can, and should, still set limits.

Mod up! (1)

ttfkam (37064) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909970)

This isn't even like when your kids are out on their own. They're in the house. There are no hard and fast rules for how long is too long, but if you think the line is being crossed, walk over to the computer, reach behind the back of the case and pull the power cable.

If your teenager is spending too much time on the telephone, pull the cord out of the wall.

That said, make sure you know what your kids are doing online. No, I don't mean spying. I mean are they IMing their friends, IMing some letcher or learning how to program? Are they "wasting time" on howstuffworks.com or incessantly playing Doom3?

And make sure that you periodically kick them out of the house to play soccer.

Re:Set boundries! (2, Insightful)

Devalia (581422) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910185)

Bullshit, im in my first year of university and i've seen what this kind of parenting does.

The kids get free and they go wild.

Drinking, sex, net, gambling you name it. The more balanced kids tend to be those of us who had trust, broke it, learnt things the hard way, found out for ourselves, survived on fast food whilst on our own long enough to decide how to cook etc.

Re:Set boundries! (1)

milkman_matt (593465) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910393)

Tell them that they can have 2 hours and that is it. They are teenagers they will break that rule and then you provide a consequence.

I'm not a parent or anything, and not well versed (yet) in proxy servers, but being that this is /., I don't think this sounds like an unreasonable idea.. maybe set up a home proxy server to limit access? You can do that kind of thing with modern proxy software right?

Dad - unlimited usage 24/7
Mom - unlimited usage 24/7
Child1 - 2 hours per day, 8am-10pm
Child2 - 5 hours per day 8am-12pm

Or something like that? It'd make your life easier not having to police anything.

-matt

Some ideas from a non-parent (4, Insightful)

numbski (515011) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909862)

I was going to say I was a teenager not so long ago myself, but I'm pushing 10 years hence now.

Anyway, this will come off a bit odd, but buy a case of Bawls, and lan party with them.

Seriously.

If they're taking an interest in online activities, my gut tells me the best thing you can do is get involved. Be active and supportive.

True, getting outside and being active is important as well (perhaps join a gym, get into a workout regimine and encourage them to join you?), but if they're going to use the computer, make sure you have a part in it.

As a side note, since teenagers seem to take some amount of joy in parental rebellion, they may actually wind up spending LESS time online, simply because you're taking an interest in their activities. :P

Just some thoughts.

Re:Some ideas from a non-parent (2, Insightful)

jeremy_dot (734236) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910972)

I am a teenager, roughly 17 years old. I am frequently on the computer.

I was raised on the computer. I turned the computer on by myself at age 3 and made ran a program my father had found called Mandala (effectively pretty changing colors). I have been playing video games since the late 2's. My mother and father both worked involving computers for a fair while, and thus it has worn off on me, but they have shown them to me as a choice.

I spend a good amount of time on the computer, and most of it is spent either doing work or chatting with friends. I design websites as my form of teenage employment. This has been encouraged by both of my parents, because it is something I enjoy doing and is something I can make money doing.

My point of this is as such; regardless of what your children do you should support them (to the degree of morality, do not support their use of drugs, underage drinking, etc). If a teenager feels support and respect (as in the parents do not help them) by their parents towards something, they will likely accept it (they may not rebel, but might anyway).

I have many good friends, and we frequently go out and have good times, such as driving up to New Hampshire and running into a field shooting off fireworks (which is legal there). Computers aren't my life, but they play a big part because my parents let me choose (though they introduced them to me) if and how they were to be my life. This does not just apply to computers; a friend of mine plays music not because he was encouraged by his parents from a young age, but because it was his choice to play.

Simply put, support your children and let them be individuals.

Mod parent up, support is parenting teenagers.

Re:Some ideas from a non-parent (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911132)

True, getting outside and being active is important as well (perhaps join a gym, get into a workout regimine and encourage them to join you?)

I recommend paintball. The field I go to has a $15-$25 fee to play all day (9-5 or so), and you will burn more calories than just about any other recreational activity.

Martial arts are good too. I take ninjutsu on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I mention this because I've always disliked the idea of going to gyms, particularly when I was a teenager, but even then I would have liked both of the things above if someone had introduced me to them then.

I honestly don't see what the problem is with lots of online activity - I did the same thing for the first year or two I had internet access, although in those days it was shell only over 1200bps so I was mostly using email, IRC, and Usenet.

Hey dad (4, Funny)

mrgrey (319015) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909869)

Hey dad, get off slashdot. These are my friends. Oh, and I can be grumpy if I want.

Go stand in the corner young man. (2, Insightful)

numbski (515011) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909887)

I won't take any lip from you. Don't come out until I say so. ....

and GET OFF OF THAT COMPUTER! I have MRTG down here, and I know how to use it. I cut off your default gateway just like that!

Re:Go stand in the corner young man. (4, Funny)

Wudbaer (48473) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910281)

And certainly the good old "AS LONG as you stick your LAN cable into MY switch YOU'll DO WHAT I SAY ! " ;-)

Re:Go stand in the corner young man. (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910503)

And back in MY day, we had to talk to our friends on TELEPHONES. You know, those things that are TETHERED TO THE WALL. We could not even walk around the house while taking on the phone!

And if we wanted information, we WALKED TO THE LIBRARY!

Sheesh. Youngsters these days.

AND GET OUT OF MY YARD! {shakes cane at children}

Re:Go stand in the corner young man. (0)

numbski (515011) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911049)

blah blah blah....and had to get your warez off of usenet walking uphill in the snow both upstream and downstream blah blah blah...

Actually, had to get your warez off of the local bbs at 2400 baud....

no.

I had to manually copy floppies in binary to punchcard by reading the terminal output...

I wonder, have these kids even SEEN 'WarGames'?

Would you like to play a game?

ground them... (3, Funny)

Naikrovek (667) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909870)

... until they stop acting like trolls.

make them cook their own food, do their own laundry, etc. give them good reasons to leave the PC.

eventually they'll grow out of it, but it could be years and years before they complete that on their own.

help them hate the computer, force them to use IE, force them to go through a proxy where everything they do is monitored. disallow them from installing new software. make them hate the computer. they'll either give up or become so good at computers that their online time will turn into a career.

or you can just do what my dad did when i was hooked on nintendo. pull the fuse and hide it.

Re:ground them... (1)

frizop (831236) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909934)

Oddly enough, thats a pretty good idea. The last bit anyway. About the proxy and letting them know there being watched. It is a bit like if you were at work. Although I have mixed feelings about monitoring people, especially your children. I don't know if telling them "I'm going to monitor your online activities" makes it ok to do so.

Re:ground them... (2, Funny)

Reducer2001 (197985) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910062)

Because monitoring at work works so well. I don't think I've written any slashdot posts NOT from work. :)

Re:ground them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910102)

Yeah, well at work they need to monitor hundreds of people. You should only have to monitor the activities of 2 or 3 kids, which is a piece of cake in comparison- very easy to know EVERY little thing they do online.

Re:ground them... (1)

frizop (831236) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910274)

You have to figure, these are younger children. There likely to just throw there hands up in the air and not talk on it anymore.

Re:ground them... (1)

krymsin01 (700838) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910362)

I don't know how well "I'm going to monitor your online activities" would work.

I know that the way it would have worked for _ME_ as a teenager is that I would have learned how to encrypt my communications. You want to monitor me? Break out the beowulf.

Geeks? (4, Insightful)

JFitzsimmons (764599) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909894)

Are they geek teenagers or just the normal dumb ones?

If they're geeks then you're probably squashing something useful by forcing the off the computer. I know this by experience. I feel restricted by my parents who are constantly forcing me to do other things, which makes it nearly impossible to do some things I've always wanted to, like clan gaming. On the more productive side, there's nothing more annoying than a parent nagging you to get off the computer when you're in the middle of coding a serious project (debugging even more so). Adding on to that however, I have been working at an IT related job for the last 4 months and both my parents and myself have seen a significant decline in the amount of time I spend on the computer at home. Getting an IT related job might be a little tricky; I think I just got lucky.

If they aren't geeks, get them off that damn computer. Their time is much better wasted smoking up and getting hammered at some party. Maybe if they're lucky they'll have a kid before they finish high school.

Re:Geeks? (2, Insightful)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910317)

I'm a (just about to graduate) college student who had a similar background- I was a computer nerd who spent lots of time online, and now "computer and hardware skills" are one of my best job skills.

If they're going to spend a lot of time on the box, *force* them to learn something new. Switch the computer to linux and make them use it to get to their IM client. Introduce them to HTML or PHP, install the stuff on your own computer and host a small webserver. Do anything to make them learn.

Computer skills are invaluable. If they're going to spend the time online, they should at least be learning something while doing it, since they certainly aren't getting any physical exercise.

By the way, I think I'm perfectly fine now. =)

Re:Geeks? (1)

holderofthering (810144) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911178)

I agree compleatly, but sadly most teenagers these days arn't that smart.

I'm a teen myself, and I laugh to myself when I look at my 'buddy list' and see 30 people online. Most of these people sit there, with MSN messenger open, ither starting meangingless conversations, or tuneing out to TV at the same time. If they have been doing this for over a year, some of them have figured out how to run Kazza at the same time.

The real fact is, the majority of IM useres are as dumb in real life as they are online, THEY AREN"T LEARNING ANYTHING NEW. Pretty much a new way for them to waste time.

Now if it were my children, I would make them figure out how to do it from the Console on Linux, or if you have some real smarties lock them out of everything except for Linux from Scratch. ;)

The Internet is full of wonderful things, but you need to use it: Sitting on Computer != Learning skills to use a computer on.

When was the last time knowing all the emicons on MSN messenger landed someone a job?

Who cares? (4, Informative)

seinman (463076) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909901)

I was recently a teenager (i'm 21 now) who spent 8 to 10 hours a day online, and I can't say that it was a bad thing. I mean, as long as they're getting their schoolwork done and still helping out around the house, is it really that big a deal that they spend their free time online? Do what my mom did: no computer until homework and chores are done.

Re:Who cares? (4, Interesting)

the morgawr (670303) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910247)

Also was a teenager who spent a lot of time in my room and around the house (online, video games, reading). Once I got a car, I had no curfew. My folks just expected me to do the right thing and keep them informed about my life. Since they respected me, we never went throught some rebelious phase.

My parents and I talked about school but doing schoolwork was my responsibility and I got decent grades.

My parent's attitude was that as long as I acted responsibly, they let me have wide freedom.

To the OP, if your kids are being responsible with their life, I'd say no worries, they're better off then 90% of the people out there. OTOH, if they are being generally irresponsible by measureable means (failing classes, perpetually getting in late at night, not doing important housework), you should talk to them and figure out why they arn't living up to your expectations. Assuming the computer causes the problems is unproductive and may result in adressing the symptom instead of the cause. In general, trust your kids until they give you reason not to.

Use the Microsoft stratigy (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909903)

Embrace and extend, I just get on line for 10-12 hours a day as well and rearly venture out side. Just refresh Slashdot all day and you'll be fine.

It's not the time. It's the topic. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10909905)

You shouldn't be so concerned about the fact that they're spending so much time on the computer. You should be concerned that they're spending that time with mind-numbing chat.

I spent at least ten hours a day on the computer when I was a teenager. However, I spent it learning to program and other things that later landed me a great high-paying career.

But kids don't do this anymore. The computer and the internet have simply turned into a "chat toy" and - at best - a gaming console. The idea of putting a computer together and then learning it inside out (meaning more than just how to USE applications and surf the net) is passe. And it's sad.

Re:It's not the time. It's the topic. (1)

fryingpan (550157) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910910)

Although chat is becoming today's phone, definitely hope they redirect themselves to something more beneficial. But don't push. If they learn a foreign language, encourage them somehow to find chat partners in that language and thus kill two birds with one stone. If they spent all day blogging, they might, over time, turn into a talented writer or something. Or get an interest in writing. Or learn to spell. Maybe.

Personal experience (1)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909918)

Getting introduced to the internet was a revolution for me. Yes, I was one of those teens who spent a lot of time indoors, and even in my early twenties, I do spend a fair amount of time online.

What parents today need to realise is that the internet is more than a past-time. Some of my best friends are online. Being a bit of a social outcast, I actually learned quite a bit about what is acceptable by talking with people online. I went from having zero self-confidence to a having a healthy amount. So instead of becoming a real-world recluse, I'm actually somebody with dreams, goals, and ambition. For me, as with others, it's easier to talk about personal issues through the chat medium.

The internet is also a great educational resource for all topics, not just those you'd find in a book. It also exposes you to more viewpoints that you won't see in mainstream media. It has been very helpful along my road of self-discovery. I have become much more aware of what is out there, and have developed quite a deep understanding of myself.

So for a while, yeah, I spent too much time online. Did I turn out okay? Absolutely, and for the better.

this same thing happened to my brother (2, Insightful)

viperstyx (578360) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909919)

my younger brother went through this same phase. i agree, its VERY annoying. i have yet to figure out what the solution is, but the key is to act now!

one thought: hop on the internet with them. start showing them all the neat things on the internet where they can learn more about little projects they could replicate or even enhance at home. anything to get their minds churning. that way they get the motivation to get off their butts themselves!

also, i would encourage them to go to their friends houses to hang out, or to the mall with the friends, etc. offer to drive them. sure hanging out at the mall isnt time much better spent, but at least its a step in the right direction.

and if all else fails, may be seeing their parents using the internet so often will make them feel its not as cool as they thought it was and they'll stop ;)

Just give them a daily internet 'quota' or a.... (1)

venom600 (527627) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909926)

...specific time frame that they're allowed to be online. Only allow them to be online from 4-6 PM every day, or whatever you deem acceptable. This could easily be implemented...depending on what you're using for internet sharing. If you have a linux box as your gateway, a couple of iptables rules and some crontab entries would solve the problem. Alternatively, products like the Linksys WCG200 internet gateway allow you to set up access restrictions based on time.

Just a couple of suggestions.

How's this different from the real world? (2, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909929)

IM is just a communication method. Would you nag them as much if they were chatting on the phone instead? Even if you had more than one phone line? Do computers bother you because you don't understand technology and are afraid of it? Would you be equally concerned if they spent ten hours a day with their friends in real life? If your concern is simply with them being physically inactive, then say it, instead of making some vague "internet is evil" complaint. When teenagers hang out in the real world they are not very active either. Think about it.

Re:How's this different from the real world? (1)

octover (22078) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910428)

C'mon, the guy is asking slashdot for parenting advice, how much more geek could you want? Of course he understands the technology, well at least tries to follow it. I think its more he is concerned that maybe this is a thing he should intervene to help build his kids' character.

Re:How's this different from the real world? (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910958)

> I think its more he is concerned that maybe this is a
> thing he should intervene to help build his kids' character.

How will refraining from IM build his kids' character? What I see is a parent who doesn't spend much time with his kids, but now sees they are on the Internet (oh, the evil Internet!) and by golly, he must "intervene" or else... or else... Well, I guess nothing that wouldn't have happened anyway.

Re:How's this different from the real world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10911133)

Computers are a wonderful social outlet for anyone, teens included, if properly used.
I had the misfortune of being a teen in the mid-1970s, and computers allow me to access information and communicate with others in a much more rewarding manner than the options available back then.
RW isn't always better than online, and if you are buried in some rural hellhole as I was your only contact with worthwhile humans may BE online!
The situation you live in may SUCK for your kids even though it isn't obvious to you.
Let them explore via computer, and monitor them sensibly.

Get them outside and able to interact with people (5, Insightful)

Pfhor (40220) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909936)

soon.

I what you described was very similar to my own computer usage habits in my teen years. I was a social introvert, and felt like I could communicate more easily over IRC.

What i've now realized is that this very stale and limited form of communication (words pale in comparison to things such as body language, tone, eye contact) had curbed my ability to socialize with people in real life. I was not able to handle all of this information being thrown at me when I talked to someone face to face, it became overwhelming. And I became a jerk for a big part of it, what i thought would be sarcastic or witty jokes, ended up being horrible offenses against the people I was talking to, for the very fact that taken as a string of words, it wasn't much, but saying it face to face with a person, making eye contact, etc. changed its meaning.

What helped me break out of this was some serious away from computer community building experiences. I went to a non traditional boarding school (http://www.shackleton.org) that forced me to deal with people face to face. Once I was able to discover a sense of closeness with people there, being online just felt fake. There are other options too, outward bound is a good one, that will not only get your kids outside for a couple of weeks, but really push their limits and help them figure out what they are capable of.

I would also suggest limiting their internet access, and having them do outside sports, interaction with people, jobs, and physical exercise, all of which helped me through the difficult stages of puberty and figure out with a little more clarity what I wanted to do with my life.

I also suggest you take a look at "Letters at 3Am: Reports on Endarkenment" By Michael Ventura, specifically the essay "Age of endarkenment" which is an amazing piece on puberty in western cultures. Also take a look at "Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self" by Donald Nathanson.

And talk to your kids, tell them about your life growing up and what it was like at that time, not in a shaming way or a contrived way, but just share your experiences with what they may be going through.

I am not a shrink, or a developmental psychologist or anything of that nature, I have had to deal with my own puberty and I am currently in a stage in my life self relfecting on it and these are the things that I (and my therapist) have discovered to be helpful.

Can't Be Hands Off (2, Insightful)

akpoff (683177) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909938)

I understand the desire to trust their judgement but you can't be totally hands off. You should treat their online time similarly to the way you'd treat their time out with their friends. Do you hand them a key to the front door and tell them when to be home? Probably not. Get online with them...not all day but play the games they play, visit the groups they visit. The internet has as much good and bad to offer as the real world. Treat it with the same respect. One very effective option is to install software that only allows them to visit pre-approved sites. As they demonstrate the maturity and judgement to handle unfettered access then you can slowly loosen it up.

As for limiting their time that's realatively easy. The same software above can be used to limit hours of overall use, amount of time in specific programs, etc. You can give them lots of time for say using Word to write papers and less time for certain games or online activities. Also, don't forget the value of spending that off time with them (nor that of get-togethers with friends). Take them on family and one-to-one outings. Again, treat the computer the way you would any other activity -- actively manage it.

Most important to the above is to talk with your children and explain your thinking. I would not suggest going at it by parental fiat -- don't install the software one night while their sleeping. Explain to them your concerns AND your desire to spend time with them. Install it and show them how it works (not the admin part ;-).

Sullen and moody? That's in part something we as parents have to work around but it's best not to let it run unchecked. The same rapport and good relationship that allows you to spend time online with them and go on outings should help break past the bearer and find the child and attitude you'd rather have around the house.

Block it. (1)

iainl (136759) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909985)

Block the IM port on the router. Its a security-hole-ridden load of crap anyway. If they want to chat for hours online, at least make them use something less horrible.

If they're non-geeks, the 'oh dear, is the internet down?' excuse will put off the argument for a while, too!

Cancel the Internet (2, Insightful)

gbrandt (113294) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909987)

This happened to my sister. Between the hours involved, and the fights to see who get on the computer, she got so pissed off she just cancelled the internet. Her family was more important than the convenience of having internet at home.

Sure, there was resentment at first, but in the cousr of a month, the whole family is back to normal.

Simple solution... (2, Funny)

MrIcee (550834) | more than 9 years ago | (#10909995)

...charge them for the time they spend online. Treat your house like an internet cafe.

Ha, this one is easy (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910020)

Install Linux on their PCs. Something like Debian, without the Gnome or KDE desktop environments. Explain to them that in order to run the instant messenger, they will need to compile the desktop environment for the latest kernel, meanwhile using wget. Bring home a good supply of O'Reilly books.

Pretty soon they will be either off the Internet, or discussing the kernel fork pros and cons in specialized mailing lists.

No, no no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910961)

Not Debian. Make them use Gentoo. And KDE. That way they'll have to compile KDE before they IM.

That'll slow them down for a few days.

Re:Ha, this one is easy (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911008)

> Explain to them that in order to run the instant
> messenger, they will need to compile the desktop
> environment for the latest kernel, meanwhile using wget.

I'm afraid on Linux a better suggestion is: "if you want to run instant messenger, you'll have to research the IM protocol and write the client yourself." Because whenever they want to do something right, this is where things will end up.

You've really screwed up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910094)

You're letting your kid use MSN? What the hell is wrong with you? Are you trying to raise a future Microsoft supporter? Stop it now before it's too late.

Ask them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910171)

Ask them what they want to do with their lives. Just constantly ask them that. Eventually they'll think about it. If they still don't do what you want, well there's not much more you could have done.

a plethora of options (1)

jeif1k (809151) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910194)

now having two people who rarely venture outdoors except under duress

Easy: get them wireless access. The Danger Hiptop [danger.com] might work.

And, don't worry, once they discover real sex, they will venture outside again.

Do you ban them from using MSN?

Sounds like a good idea. They should be using Jabber.

Do you limit the number of hours they can be online?"

Oops, darn, what a shame, Windows crashed again. Kids, it will take me a few hours to reinstall. Sooner or later, they'll catch on and just install Linux for you, but at least that's educational.

Many Slashdot readers must have confronted this situation; how have you dealt with it, and what were the outcomes of what you did?

Yeah, I know, being a Slashdot reader myself, my parents have been trying to get me away from the computer as well, but with little success so far :-)

Take the initiative. (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910344)


Well, you're the parent, do something about it! You don't mention what you've tried to get them unhooked so I can only assume that you haven't done anything yet. Take the initiative. Lay down the rules. Don't know what the rules should be? Make some up. It's more important to have rules at all than to have perfect ones.

Oh, and you probably waited too long.

If it were my kids in this situation and it had gotten this far out of hand and they got all up in arms over a few limitations, I would say this:

"Okay, fine. Your computer time is limited to 2 hours per day during the week and 3 hours per day on the weekend. Homework counts towards it. If you want more time than that, you'll have to use this computer right here. There is no operating system on it. You may only install FreeBSD on it. Cooperation is encouraged. Have fun."

Oh yes, they would hate me. With a passion. But they just might thank me eventually.

Depends on ... (1)

stereo_Barryo (530287) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910430)

Age: a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old should be treated differently. The younger deserves less independence due to their lesser maturity and experience. Grades: are their grades acceptable? If not, limit the online chatting until they are, since this appears to be simply a phone-replacement and not serious programming, etc. Variety in their lives: if they never go out and see the people that they are chatting with then their life is too limited. In any event, when you took on the responsibility of having children, you took on the responsibilty of guiding them ( since they have limited experience ) as long as they stay with you. Too many parent abdicate that responsibility.

Look in the mirror (1)

yetanothertechie (699283) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910458)


two people who rarely venture outdoors except under duress and are close to unbearable unless they're ensconced online with 'friends' on MSN for hours at a time

When they're not online, they're grumpy, demanding, constantly nagging, etc. (i.e. normal teenagers)

It sounds like there are deeper issues here than internet usage - I get the sense that you have some hostility towards your kids.

Have you considered that your own attitude may be contributing to the amount of time they're spending away from you and online?

Re:Look in the mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10910700)

You obviously don't have a teenager.

Re:Look in the mirror (2, Interesting)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911222)

Thank you for providing an "in" for one of my longwinded rants.

It's certainly obvious that there is some estrangement between this guy and his teens, and it's possible that some of the blame is his, but I think you're a little quick to place the blame.

Kids in our society are messed up. Not surprising, since this messing up has been the goal of many elements in our society for years. Look at the TV kids are watching, and the way the corporate powers seek to advertise to them. The adult world is portrayed as stale and boring. Adults are hapless morons of varying levels of vindictiveness, while kids are smart, powerful, and hip.

The corporate message is, "By using our products to define your identity, you can become cool and save yourself from the small-minded rules of your adult oppressors." Real power and independence comes from hard work, healthy living, and deep knowledge of important subjects. But if the advertisers have their way (and they do), kids are raised believing it comes from owning the latest and greatest, by mastering expensive but trivial pursuits like Pokemon and Yu-gi-oh, and by defying authority for no good reason.

Having been browbeaten with these messages practically since birth, what chance does a teenager have of becoming someone who is good company for an adult?

I think adults have a responsibility to maintain a good relationship with their kids. They should be interested in our lives and we should be interested in theirs. Reducing the amount of "trivial" media that children consume shields them from a lot of messages which can erode their interest in the adult world and their respect for their parents.

DSL box locked in closet... (1)

286 (620933) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910540)

Funny how the Internet connection goes down around dinner time...

Broadcast message from root (pts/0)
COME DOWN TO DINNER NOW!!!

If you are a bit more tech savvy you set the rule. You can sit down and dicker about times, but I set limits on the lenght of time online. Be reasonable or your kids may try to hold you to the same limits. :) Now if you rely on your kids for tech support you have lost the biggest tool.

Above all be open and honest about what your expectations are, but be firm.
It's no different than TV or video games.

Re:DSL box locked in closet... (1)

kentborg (12732) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910705)

There is hidden wisdom in the above comment: Eat dinner with your
kids. Real food (not frozen fast food), real table, real manners,
real conversation. It makes for a connection between you, it puts
some schedule in them, civilizes the savages.

But you have already been doing that with them up to this point,
right? (Teenage years might be a difficult time to start.)

-kb, the Kent without kids, but also the Kent who ate dinner with his
family when growing up.

There's a few dangers (1)

Gary Destruction (683101) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910632)

First of all, warn them about obesity and Type II Diabetes. If they're always at the computer, they're taking the risk of becoming obese and that can rnesult in Type II Diabetes.

Second of all, warn them about social anxiety and depression. Let them know that the longer they avoid going out and doing things, the harder it will become. This could impact them severely and could result in regret and lonelyness.

Control freaks never win. (4, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910652)

From all the responses here I see a disturbing pattern of suggestions, no: demands! to be absolutely in control of what children do. This immediately strikes me as both immoral and futile. By trying to fit your child into a specific mold you are treating him like an object. An experimental object of "let's see how much better our kids can turn out if they don't do all the bad things we used to do!" You are basically trying to remove his free will and replace it with your own; to destroy any nascent moral thoughts he may be having and to install your own. From other comments I gather that most parents appear mostly concerned with pornography ("put the computer in a public area"), which is really sad. Sure, there are wars in the world, and school shootings, and hunger and starvation, and drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, fast food; but our children's lives will surely be destroyed by a sight of a woman's body. I won't even talk about the fact that whenever I've been in some male friend's room, I always saw some porn somewhere. I won't mention that your kids can just as easily hide it where you can't find it. I won't even mention those .jpg files on my father's computer (which get automatically added to his Documents' menu :) I guess if he knew how to prevent that, he wouldn't have to ask me to remove spyware, clean viruses, troubleshoot the network; *sigh*) I'll just say that whatever it is you are trying to "protect" your kids from, they will get anyway, and probably dislike you for trying. It's not that you don't mean well, it's that you don't understand the real problem. A boy wouldn't spend so much time looking at porn if he could spend time with a girlfriend. He wouldn't do drugs if he had a purpose in life; a purpose whose emergence you have prevented by trying to cram your own down his throat. He wouldn't do drugs if he had other ways of experiencing pleasure; from learning, for instance: there's nothing like the feeling "I can do this!" "I know how!" "Wow! I finally understand!"; or from sports: "I am strong and agile!", "I am in control of my body!"; or from social interactions: "people like me.", "I am a nice person", "I like meeting people and making friends." He wouldn't smoke if he knew when to try to fit in and when not to. If he knew what kind of people he liked (as opposed to being told whom to like) and why he liked them, he would have had a much better chance of finding friends instead of throwing himself into what he perceives to be the "cool" group in a desperate, futile attempt to belong somewhere, anywhere, to just not be so painfully lonely. He wouldn't be a bully if you had allowed him to develop self-confidence, which you have quashed with every "because I said so" and every restrictive little rule you imposed upon him without explanation. He wouldn't turn to violence if he could change things he hated without it. And you know what? If you keep at trying to make him your "perfect little boy", he'll run away from you. As far as possible. Maybe he'll wait until he goes to college, gets a job, and then never speaks to you again. Maybe not. But I can tell you that you won't be close and you won't be a family.

Jobs. (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910688)

If they "need" their intarwebs access, tell them that they can pay for the service.

That will force them to get jobs or even just do chores (cleaning their rooms, shoveling snow, whatever).

Once they've got responsibility, they will have less time to spend online and more time becoming responsible members of society.

It's normal; they'll grow out of it. (3, Insightful)

stevejsmith (614145) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910718)

Leave 'em alone. It seems that you're mostly concerned about the time that they spend online rather than what they're doing, which is good - they're not idiots, and the worst they can do is maybe look at porn (and in actuality, is that such a horrible thing?). If they're 13-15, chances are they will grow out of it. They're at the age where they're beginning to take social (and romantic) relationships seriously, but are a little new to it and find conversing online a lot easier. As they grow older and more independent, they'll find more real way to communicate (first phone, then in person) and will get off of the computer. It's a hard time for a kid, and easing into serious social and romantic relationships is perfectly normal, and the Internet is just perfect for that. Now, if they're older, then you have a problem. It could be that they're just developing later, or it could be that...I dunno. They're becoming obsessed? But it seems like they're younger (I can't imagine a 17-year-old's age group "just discovering" the Internet), so I think it's perfectly normal. Talk to them about safety and not giving out personal information, but beyond that, don't worry about it. Even porn is hardly detrimental - it's a fine introduction to sexuality and, quite frankly, they'll probably grow out of that, too.

Tell it to them straight (1)

scythian (46974) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910769)

Dear Son,

I'm so sorry that you like to spend so much time online. I had hoped that you could grow up to be a healthy, trim, and sociable person. Now you'll have monitor tan, eye strain, and a big gut from sitting around all day. Enjoy not having any friends!

Love,
-Folks

Seriously, though, see if you can note particular changes (physical / mental) that happened because of the increased net use. For example, after a summer of independent coding / database work, I found that I couldn't speak up to save me -- I would stutter. A consequence of the computer I'd say.

Are they typical teenagers? (1)

NuclearDog (775495) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910778)

Are they just spending all their time online chatting with friends? If so, just limit their time to 1 hour a day or, as some other people have posted, give 'em a blank hard-drive and a fresh FreeBSD install and plenty of books.

If they're like me and spend all their time online programming, reading, maintaining a web server, etc, then don't cut their access down, just sit down and have a talk with them and work with them to think up things they could do instead of going on the computer. Maybe just tell them that you'll continue letting them sit on the computer as long as they currently do if they'll let you sign them up for a soccer/badminton/etc league.

Use pf's authpf to enable the gateway (1)

QuietRiot (16908) | more than 9 years ago | (#10910831)

Just ideas....

There's this page [archlug.org].

I'm assuming your kids use windows. Can't help you there - but if you can setup a unix-like router [openbsd.org] you might be able to implement some of these....

If you can restrict access to a unix machine acting as a router that's running PF [openbsd.org], you could use AuthPF [openbsd.org] to enable or disable a NAT connection to your child's box. Just have them ssh in when they want to use the machine and they either get logged out automatically [daemonnews.org] somehow or logout when they're done. (It's not hard. Putty with private keys makes this a two click operation or it could be scripted to run at startup on a unix box.) This could be setup to allow or restrict access to individual computers on your in-house LAN.

Note: OpenBSD does not have the sessiontime clause in login.conf

You could use login.conf [freebsd.org] and times.allow, times.deny to restrict when logins are allowed (on FreeBSD):
The times.allow and times.deny entries consist of a comma-separated list
of time periods during which the users in a class are allowed to be
logged in. These are expressed as one or more day codes followed by a
start and end times expressed in 24 hour format, separated by a hyphen or
dash. For example, MoThSa0200-1300 translates to Monday, Thursday and
Saturday between the hours of 2 am and 1 p.m.. If both of these time
lists are empty, users in the class are allowed access at any time. If
times.allow is specified, then logins are only allowed during the periods
given. If times.deny is specified, then logins are denied during the
periods given, regardless of whether one of the periods specified in
times.allow applies.
You could also use AuthPF and a cron script to write and remove /etc/nologin [openbsd.org]. from the system at given times.
## ADJUST TO TASTE - they're your kids! ##

0 14 * * * rm /etc/nologin
# go ahead and use computer till 4p. Then we have dinner
# and you kids do homework not needing online time
0 16 * * * touch /etc/nologin
# alright, chat with your friends for a bit or finish up your homeword
0 20 * * * rm /etc/nologin
# no more. Say goodnight to your friends and hit the sack!
30 21 * * * touch /etc/nologin
Remember root can login anytime (can also be overridden on individual accounts through login.conf with ignorenologin. You'll need to periodically check and force logouts (after a winpopup warning) based on the existence of this file.

You could modify the firewall/NAT rules directly via cron or some other method to your choosing (report cards online? Screenscrape the results and allow an extra hour for each grade point above a B-...)

You could block services on an individual basis. Web allowed all the time but chatting only from 2000-2100?? No filesharing untill after dinner?

There may be a PAM module that will restrict login based on time of day, week, etc.

You could use user accounting [openbsd.org] to record how much time they spend online. A weekly review with them.... You could restrict usage to hours/day, hours/week or whatever. When the time is all used up, access get's locked.

Depending on how advanced you'd like to get, you could setup a system by which they could trade chores or whatever for online time. Do an online form where requests are made... You authorize and time is granted.

Re:Use pf's authpf to enable the gateway (1)

ownermachina (137072) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911277)

In any case self-control is better than outside-enforced control. The difficult thing about self-control is that it relies on feedback and information. If you provide your kids with information about their online activities (without content, just statistics) like this:

Hours spent on computer this week: 40
Usage distribution (based on traffic):
80% IM
10% Browse
10% Playing

They might realize something is wrong, specially if you compare with hours spent doing some other productive or social things.

If they can justify their long periods online, then they probably deserve to be online.

Just a thought from a soon to be psychologist.

Asking Slashdot of all Places (1)

nuintari (47926) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911142)

Do you ban them from using MSN?

Your asking this on slashdot and you don't already know the answer? Seems to me you don't spend enough time on your computer. Who are you to judge your offspring if you yourself can't even keep 'with it'?

Be a parent for g-d's sake. (1, Insightful)

np_bernstein (453840) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911172)

I had the same problem with television when I was a kid - I was enraptured by it. I went from playing outside all day and staying in occasionally to staying in all day and playing outside occasionally. My dad saw that this was a problem and came to a very simple solution: No more TV. He threw out all of the TVs in the house except one, which he put in the basement (no cable reception was nill) for watching moves. This stopped my TV watching problem in its tracks. Instead, I spent much more time outside, and by the time I graduated highschool I was reading an average of a book - two books/day.

And yes, when I was young, I was pretty pissed at my dad. So, please, be a parent and don't let your kids use the computer. If the say no, throw the damn thing out the window. Leave one in the house, and switch back to dialup.

Balance (1)

jorenko (238937) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911196)

I was like almost like this when I was a teenager (I am 21 now), but, thankfully, the internet wasn't a major force for me until high school started. Because of that, in middle school, I got involved with several activities, and even sports, that allowed me seperate outlets. I ran cross country and track, and played in the school band.

My parents never had to restrict my online time, because even though I spent several hours a day, and sometimes even 8-10 hours, I was involved in other activities that got me outside, and involved me with real life friends. Granted, most of them were geeks too, but you've gotta fit somewhere.

So, my suggestion is that they only be allowed to spend as much time online as they have with other activities that don't take place in the house. It may seem like binging and purging for a while, but it balanced me out pretty well in the end.

Is this slashdot? (2, Insightful)

CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911204)

I'm very surprised by the responses to this question? It's very unlike Slashdot to promote this kind of totalitarian, dictatorial solutions. I'm even more surprised those kids aren't defended by the slashdot crowd. Maybe they are spending a lot of time on the computer, but they are communicating and socializing. If you tell a geek "get a life" he'l get online. For many people the internet is the best and cheapest way of being in contact with other people.
Consider all the other possible things teenagers tend to do. Hang around on the street, be part of a gang, be involved with crime and/or drugs, being drunk. None of them compare to being at home talking to other people
You should realize that a computer is a very versatile device. Spending 4 hours behind a computer doesn't mean 4 hours of the same.
Watching a movie, listening to music, talking to friends, researching an interest, playing a game and paying bills are all activities that can be done using a computer. Suggesting that they are all the same thing because all of them involve a computer is not very accurate. As a computer nerd almost all of my activities involve a computer in some way or they other. For me that's the most efficient way of working. Computers are tools, and very good tools in the hands of a professional.
If I need to fix my bike, I'll use my computer to learn how to.
If I want to go to the movies, I'll use the internet to find out what movies are playing, where, when and wheter or not there are tickets left.
If I want to contact my brother (who is travelling around the world) I'll use my computer.
If I need to pay my taxes, I'll do it using my computer.
If I want to play a game of chess, I'll use my computer.

PS I wear jeans during all the activities described above. Nobody ever told me I spend to much time in jeans. A computer is just like a pair of glasses or jeans; something I'm using most of the day to make my life a little more comfortable.

Priviliges are Earned (2, Interesting)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 9 years ago | (#10911289)

By being able to shoulder the responsibilities. If they can't handle the responsibilities of being part of a family ("participate in civilized social interaction with your family"), you pull the privileges.
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