Should we monitor the e-books our kids download?
2 experts and 2 parents have answered
Unlike films, videogames and music, fiction is not subject to age classification. Which means that books your kids might be too bashful to buy in a store is just a double-click away online. Gulp.
The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon has highlighted a new issue: It’s pretty easy for teens to download or access entirely unsuitable e-books.
E-readers have led to a rise in the sales of erotic and romantic fiction that readers may previously have felt too inhibited to buy and read in public. In the first half of 2012, sales in e-books increased by a staggering 188%.
In my day, the book teens hankered after was Forever by Judy Blume, which in hindsight was pretty tame in comparison. One of my friends had managed to get hold of a copy (bound in masking tape) via her older sister, and this single copy was passed around every girl in the class.
Amazon seems to be waking up to the issue: Its recent update to the Kindle Fire included additional parental controls like the ability to password-protect purchases and disable access to specific content libraries.
But the Kindle for Android app poses a host of problems, making it harder for parents to monitor their kid’s reading. If the Android tablet is shared, one option is to move adult fiction to the ‘archive’ and disable the wi-fi when children are using the device. Apps such as Kids Place are also worth testing.
Really though, nothing beats a pro-active interest in what your kids are reading.
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Ebooks are books. Do you monitor the books your children read or select from the Library? If so, then monitor the ebooks they are downloading and reading. It is a parent's right AND responsibility to do so. Exercise your rights.
Also, read the books your children read so you can have discussions about the topics they cover as well as monitor the subject matter.
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This is an interesting question because it seems to imply that e-books are somehow different from real books.
Since few children are going to have the ability to make online purchases without their parents knowledge (being legally restricted access to credit cards and having parental control over debit cards), it's probably a more restrictive environment in which to obtain age-inappropriate published fiction than a book store.
In the UK there are no restrictions whatsoever preventing children from buying any paper book they want. Any child, of any age, can walk into a book store and buy any book they want, unless the store itself has a policy preventing that. These books can be easily passed around between friends.
That said there's a wealth of free material available to those that seek it, but I would suggest an open attitude to discussing such issues with your teens, rather than a restrictive one is likely to yield more positive results.
The issue with books like '50 shades...' is not the content per se, but the image it portrays (misogynism, practices that are not representative of the majority etc.), when kids get to an age that they seek this material, restricting it isn't likely to be your best solution.
For younger children they are unlikely to seek such material, but inadvertent exposure is the issue here, which could just as easily happen through a paper book being left around as through an e-book.
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I can't believe this is a legitimate question. OF course we should! They are still kids! When did this idea of letting children self-monitor everything become ok? Regardless of medium, if a parent isn't monitoring content for children, you might as well leave them in the car alone while you shop too. Both are irresponsible behavior.