I've noticed this evening that my oldest, Reese, has discovered Google. At first this doesn't sound bad, but it can be and I'll explain why. It's my fault really. Sunday night, she was getting her school supplies ready for a new school year. She has a three-ring binder with a clear plastic sleeve on the outside. She wanted a picture in the cover that would express something about her and asked if I knew where she could get a picture of a volcano. She is very much into science and wants to be a volcanologist when she grows up. This is great and I encourage it. Thinking in the back of my mind about Google Images, I promise her I will find her a suitable image on the computer.
Later, however, I am feeding Lucas and I don't have a spare hand to help her out when she wants it. She asks me how to find a volcano picture herself and I tell her about the search box in the browser (Firefox). She types "volcano" and I show her the link in the top left to images.
Awesome! she squeals at the plethora of images. I smile a bit and go back to feeding Lucas from the bottle.
She finds one she likes and prints it out, then goes on to find some tornado pictures too and prints one of those out for the other side of the binder. She likes tornadoes as well, though they scare her a bit more. So she might be a meteorologist.
When I looked over her shoulder tonight, she is browsing tornado-related videos on YouTube & Google Video. I'm minutely concerned that the videos might be scary or inappropriate for her. I'm moderately concerned that the videos that she would be looking for might be linked to OTHER videos that are unrelated to volcanoes or tornadoes and are extremely inappropriate for children. But the real kicker, the issue that has me extremely concerned is the community aspect of sites like YouTube. Random people of any age can post comments on almost every video and can say whatever they want. For instance, someone with a penchant for using the f-word (misspelled without a 'c') posted their reaction to a clip Reese saw depicting a fictional F5 tornado hitting a major metropolitan area. The video, though scary, was fine as far as I was concerned but the text on the page in the comments...
This is a gray area for me. I want my children to have access to technology and know how to use it. Modestly, I'd like them to know more about it than any of their friends considering I'm such a proud geek. And cuss words --though I wouldn't tolerate my children saying them-- aren't really the worst element out there.