Teaching Children About Big-Toothed-Rats (aka Beavers)
My 82-year-old grandmother got a letter a few years back from her alma mater, Beaver College in Philadelphia. Apparently, the university wanted to change its name for many reasons, one of which was that high schools seniors searching the internet with the term “beaver” were often taken to websites that contained material both unrelated to both schools and furry woodland creatures.
My grandmother, who attended the school in the 1940’s and majored in typing, couldn’t fathom that this problem with the so-called “internet” was as bad as this letter was making it out to be. Not a consumer of Google and its awesome search power, she was confused and appalled that the college was so quick to change its name in an effort to protect children from a seemingly harmless word. “If the kids haven’t figured out the difference between beaver and ‘beaver’ by now,” she asserted, “they probably aren’t ready for college.”
I recently had the opportunity to meet with a handful of smart women as part of an SV Moms Group event, where we joined together and shared our opinions about family security on the Internet. Some of us (me included!) were a bit more naïve about the dangers for kids on the Internet, while others took a more proactive attitude. But in the end the question in some minds remained. When it comes to protecting your family on the Internet, how far is too far?
Because really, at some point, the number of euphemisms for sexual positions and body parts will exceed the number of actual words in the English language. A simple web search for “chicks” (as in the baby chicken) will bring up any number of dirty videos. Sue Sylvester, on a recent episode of my favorite TV show Glee, told her nemesis that she was going to punch her “square in the taco,” which I imagine sent a whole slew of middle school children to the computer to figure out why she would be punching her in the delicious and wholesome Mexican dinner item.
And don’t even get me started on the unfortunate naming of everyone’s favorite sporting goods store (p.s. I did learn that dicks-dot-com does not take you to their homepage).
As humans, we all have our own set of morals and values that we hold dear. And as parents, it is our duty to educate our children about those morals and values that we want them to embrace, so that they are better equipped to deal with the kinds of personal security issues that I spent a whole Sunday talking about. Because isn’t parenting about preparing our children to become independent consumers of life, whether that be on the Internet or elsewhere?
So when a quick Google search reveals the true meaning of a dirty word overheard at school, we as parents have an opportunity to educate our kids the way we would like, whether that be the avoidance route (“yes, I realize that you love your new kitten, Pussy, but perhaps we should call her Kitty instead”) or the staunch morals route (“that is a word meaning something so inappropriate that if you ever say in this house again, you may never see your 12th birthday”).
I do condone parental controls for children too young to really understand the implications of their actions. But, with older children, if we don’t use these special, often embarrassing, opportunities to have an open dialog with our children about what is right and what is wrong AND how to deal with what is wrong, then I believe we are doing a disservice to our children and ourselves.
In the end, my grandmother’s college changed its name to Arcadia University. Hundreds of high school seniors will now be spared the embarrassment of “naughty girl” websites when trying to locate a decent liberal arts school in eastern PA. And hopefully, when my son is old enough to do a science report on beavers, we will be calling them big-toothed-rats, a totally appropriate search term.
Photo Credit: Samantha Fein
An Original DC Metro Moms Post