Education Quandary: 'I found my 13-year-old watching a vile rap video on the internet. Do parents have any idea what their children look at online?'

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Hilary's advice

No, I don't think we do. We like to think that our web filters do their job and that unsavoury material is being screened out, but there is always some that gets through. Also, children look at the internet all over the place, not just at home – and who knows whether those outlets are screened or not.

I also think we find it hard to get our heads round the utter foulness of what's available. I'm so old-fashioned that I think, quaintly, that the F-word is a swear word, so in the interests of honest enquiry I sent this particular link – a Dizzee Rascal YouTube video – to my 24-year-old daughter, who works in the music industry and is pretty unshockable. Her verdict was unequivocal: "It's really gross, and not for children to be looking at."

I truly don't know what we as parents do about this, given that this sort of material is all around. Obviously we need to put checks in place, talk to our children about online safety, and make sure they understand the values we want them to live by. But kids are kids, and violence and porn have a magnetic attraction, especially when available through something as mainstream as rap music.

And I'm fairly sure that it must have a bad effect, especially on the more fragile and disturbed of our young people. Junior minds are fed by whatever goes into them, and if it's filth that goes in, who knows what will come out.

Readers' advice

Of course parents take an interest in what their children are watching on the internet, even if it's only to listen outside their bedroom doors, thinking to themselves: "What on earth are they up to?" The best idea is to sit down and watch with them. You can then give your views. I find children naturally want the approval of their parents for their latest enthusiasm. "Hey Dad, come and see this, it's really good" is an invitation. And, who knows, you might learn something from them – even to appreciate the appeal of Dizzee Rascal. You'll certainly learn something about how your children see the world.

Steve Alwyn, Worcestershire

Kids these days have seen everything by the time they're about 12. Then they grow out of it. But if you know what is out there, nothing can shock you and you are equipped to handle what comes your way in life. And just because we watch bad things on the computer doesn't make us rapists and murders. We aren't as stupid as adults think.

Kali Cooke (14), London W10

This is something all parents worry about. My eldest is only six, but I know from what his teachers say that in only another couple of years' time he will be seeing things that I cannot control. How is he meant to deal with all the worst aspects of human nature when he is still so young? I believe we will have to bring in censorship.

Jane Matthieson, Wiltshire

Next Week's Quandary

A new report on childhood from the Children's Society says that selfish adults have increased the stress on children, and therefore schools must take the lead in teaching moral values. But we believe our children's school is there to educate them and that it should leave the moral values up to us.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are available online at www.hilarywilce.com where they can be searched by topic.

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