Benji spends substantial amounts of time on the computer by himself these days. We don’t spend every minute monitoring him doing his school activities, and he likes to use One Note for playing little drawing games he narrates to himself. He could do those by hand, but One Note saves on paper and markers.

Being a fairly bright kid, he’s figured out pretty quickly that a person can search the internet to find sites of interest. Right now he searches for things like “Map of the world 1914” and similar geography-related topics.

That’s pretty innocuous. But Ian and I have banned him from doing internet searches by himself because he’s too young to have the judgment to know what’s safe and true, and what’s not. And the internet is full of dark things — even setting aside the truly disturbing stuff that would give him nightmares, lies and conspiracy theories and “alternate facts” abound. We don’t want him stumbling upon an apparently valid-looking site and believing lies.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t always followed our “no searching” rule. He feels constrained and wants to find new information. Doing a search by himself, he did find a very cool interactive world map site that shows borders at different points in history. Totally legit, but discovered by disobeying our rules.

We took away his computer play privileges for a few days after we caught him disobeying a second time.

While waiting to regain computer play rights, he’s trying to convince us that he should be allowed to visit that site. To do so, he’s created a pros and cons list:

Good historyI surf the web to find it
Can be colored in lots of different colers
Teachis me nams of coutrs that don’t egsit (teaches me names of countries that don’t exist)
Is printable
Nana liks it
Pros and cons of visiting a site Benji found by himself.

To be perfectly honest, I think this list shows good critical thinking and persuasion skills. He offers a wide variety of pros, including the insightful “Nana liks it,” which means another adult has vetted the site. Good points.

When he does get his computer privileges back, we’ll probably let him use the site. It is all the different things he says, and it’s perfectly safe. But I feel like this just hints at the treacherous technology currents we’re going to have to navigate as he gets older.

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