Thursday, October 25, 2012

Latest Attempts to Help Kids Avoid Overuse of the Computer (Part 2)

Part 1 of this story can be read here.

I should have said that while the computer guy was here my older son talked with him a lot. My son said he didn't want the program installed. My son said that he would hack through it and the tech issued him a challenge to just try. While the program was being installed, my son was researching on the Internet and shooting out ideas and the tech was knocking done each idea one after the other and chuckling. My son continued to be annoyed at the idea of the parental controls so my husband and I explained that if he would only do the work as required by law then he would have free time to do as he pleased. Goofing off during the school day and not doing the assignments completely then wanting the night off for fun also is just not going to continue to happen.

We had our first homeschool day as I explained in yesterday's post. After dropping the kids off at practice I came home and started wondering if my son did something he should not have as he was no longer acting angry and almost was acting a bit smug. Knowing him, he would have been tense and angry at the new restrictions if the restrictions were working. I called my husband to say hello and he told me that our son phoned him to say he found a way to hack through. I was not happy.

A little while later I received the batch of emails from KidsWatch reporting to me the usage on my younger son's computer. Users can select to receive any number of reports. One that we see is the list of websites frequented, how many times and at what time of day. Another shows all the computer programs used (such as PC based video games). I did not get a report for my older son which was a red flag that something had been tampered with.

When my husband walked in the door he said that our son said on the car ride home, that not only had he hacked through the program but he uninstalled it from his laptop. This was accomplished by finding a program that was free online to get all the computer's passwords (a program which will remain unamed). The system had been set up as usual through Windows so he cracked it by getting the admin Windows password then uninstalling with with permission as the admin.

I lost it at that point. I didn't yell or scream. I simply exited the room, shut my bedroom door and locked it, went into the walk-in closet with a box of tissues and the portable phone. I broke down and cried. Then I phoned a friend who has a child who was every bit as obstinate and oppositional as my son. I poured my heart out. After perhaps an hour I asked my husband to come in and speak with me.

I explained that I felt we had a breach of trust which went above and beyond anything that had ever happened before. I said that I felt that my son was showing that he was unwilling to do the schoolwork by his own choosing, because he refused by spending his time on YouTube entertainment videos, sneaking entertainment videos on NetFlix instead of watching the educational documentary he was assigned. He was also not abiding by our authority to do either the assigned work or to work within the constraints of the parental control software. He also had not been meeting deadlines for his live local chemistry class so the teacher's authority was being defied as well. I felt that he was exploiting and misuing the privileges with the systems that we put in place to be used for academic pursuits (provided a laptop for homeschool work and it was mainly being used for entertainment).

I felt that not only did I have no control but I was unable to guide or facilitate and also that my son showing by his actions and inactions that he was unable to lead himself. I decided at that point in time that perhaps it was time to stop homeschooling because it felt like it was something I was trying to do "to him" not "with him". Homeschooling was also something he was refusing to do to and for himself also.

And so my investigation into what school to enroll my son began. I'll share the next part of the story in another blog post.

KidsWatch update: I should also report here though that in a survey I received from KidsWatch asking if we were satisfied with the free trial I used the free text area to tell about how easy it was to hack. The program had been installed through Windows. An employee contacted me with directions on how to install the program linked to the root of the operating system that was virtually unhackable. When my husband gets time he is going to reinstall that software.


Ahermitt said...

I really feel for you.

When my daughter went through a period of homeschool-computer rebellion, I got a laptop lock (with the metal cord), and bolted the thing to a table in the family room... for six months. I also took the lock plate from her bedroom door. ... the whole door was next. I didn't stand over her, but she had ZER0 PRIVACY.

I told her, act like a criminal, get treated like a criminal. When people came in the house and asked why a laptop was chained to the table, I told them the truth. Yes, she was mocked by her friends.

Not saying you should do this, just giving the solution I used.

Xa Lynn said...

Christine you are killing me with the suspense!

I'm really sorry about the awful stress this has put on you. I wish I had any good suggestions, but I have only daughters, and they're younger than yours. I do really appreciate the honesty of your posts, because there are more than enough blogs with "Look how wonderful we're doing!" all through them, and none of the daily trials we all know everyone actually faces. Reading about trials that are like mine help me think about them from other perspectives and try other solutions. Reading about trials that are different remind me to be compassionate in my responses, which isn't a strong point of mine. Thank you!

Maureen Sklaroff said...

Well, the silver lining in this whole experience is that your son has some awesome computer skills! Seriously, he will probably be a really good programmer or something one day (assuming he can complete high school that is).

Deborah said...

Deja vu here...when my kid was 15, he hacked into the administrative account in the computer lab in high school, changed privileges, installed annoying software (like an icon that looked like a regular program but instead went "ding ding ding" and could not be stopped), and taught his friends how to do this stuff. Needless to say, he lost his computer access there for two months...


Laura A said...

Christine, I've been reading your blog a while now (usually through Google reader), and I really hesitate to post because I don't know you, and because I only have one teenage girl instead of two boys.

But I really hurt for your situation, so I thought hard about it, and I even asked my daughter what she thought. And I kept thinking the same thing: If I found myself in the situation you are in, at this point I wouldn't even be thinking, "How can I get them to do their work?" anymore, but instead "What can we do to save the relationships in our family?" This isn't about schoolwork anymore.

Can you ask your boys (in a non-accusatory way) when it was that they first thought that sneaking might be a good idea, and why?

I gather that you are a very frank family, but I also have to ask myself, do your boys read your blog?

My daughter, who just started school because she had to for bureaucratic reasons, was blunt about the school part. She said, "School's not going to change anything much. He's just going to find lots of other people who cheat."

Anyway, I apologize for butting in when I don't know you personally. I can see that this situation has sneaked up on you gradually and you're just now realizing the extent of it. I just felt that you were being so frank that if I wrote something, maybe it would help you recognize something you were already thinking to yourself (this has happened to me before), and perhaps even help you find a solution. But you certainly don't have to publish my comment! I hesitate to even post it and in fact would prefer to send a private e-mail, but I don't see one. So, my prayers are with you as you try to figure out what to do. It’s tough!

scimum said...

Christine, just like Xa Lynn I really appreciate you posting the ups and downs of your homeschooling life. My sons are younger than yours but we have very similar battles over computer use and 'screen time'. I have tried physically hiding the computers in various places and the boys are very good at finding where I have hidden them. I even started locking them in the car and, guess what, they took the car keys when I was asleep and smuggled the computers out. And each time the computers have disappeared the boys swear indignantly that it isn't them. I feel so sad that we have descended into having this battle, and also that 'screen time' has become more important to them than being honest. I try to parent along attachment parenting principles to but nevertheless I feel that it is down to us as adults to show children the boundaries of appropriate behaviour. I don't have the answer to our situation - yet. I am interested to find out what solution you end up with.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...


I am so sorry things have been difficult for you. Since my children are still very young (oldest dd is 8 1/2), I have yet to experience anything like this. Just know that you have my sympathies.

Sara said...

I ditto everything Xa Lynn said!