Welcome to the Web: John Beatty on Introducing our Sons to the Internet

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The Art of Teaching: A Conference for Teaching Men


November 9-11 • The Heights School, Potomac, MD

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On this week’s episode, we discuss technology with Mr. John Beatty, IT director at The Heights School.  While in past episodes we have spoken about smartphones, social media, and other forms of digital technology, in this episode we turn our attention particularly to the use of the internet on desktop computers.

As always, our aim is not merely to put up walls and make rules, but rather to help our sons grow in freedom.  Our sons are not machines to be programmed, but rather humans to be formed; and this means that their intellect and will must be engaged.  In the end, we want to graduate men who are prepared to embrace all that is good in the modern world, and so it is important that they be capable of using technology well.

To this end, Mr. Beatty offers advice that is not only technical, but also human:

  1. What are some overarching themes parents should keep in mind as they begin to introduce their children to technology? 
    1. Computer security is not perfect; a filter is insufficient. 
    2. It is important to consider the human aspects of technology use. 
    3. A relationship of trust is fundamental. 
    4. All things in due time; it is important to consider the age of our children. 
  2. What age would you begin to introduce your child to the internet? 
    1. Need to see the internet as a tool, not a toy; introduce it according to need, not whim. 
    2. Important to keep the computer in a public place
    3. Important to help them to use this machine, just as we do when teaching our children to drive.  
    4. It can be helpful to have different accounts. 
  3. How would  you introduce more freedom when the child reaches middle school?
    1. Use parental controls as guard rails to help them,  as they grow in virtue.
    2. Teach them to use their time well.
    3. Helpful to have the default setting be more locked down and then add things as needed.
  4. How do you approach the transition from middle to upper school?
    1. Remember that filters and walls will only prevent around 80% of negative content. 
    2. Parents have the responsibility to be attentive to their children’s computer use.
    3. As they grow, you can increase their freedom, just as one does with driving a car. 
  5. Is checking our child’s accounts a breach of trust?
    1. It is important to build relationships outside of negative rules. 
    2. Think of the internet as analogous to eating. 
  6. How should parents who are not technologically savvy approach these questions? 
    1. Helpful to use physical metaphors.
    2. Google is your friend.
    3. Ask other parents for help!

Also on The Forum

Virtuous Use of Technology with Mr. Joe Cardenas

Digital Minimalism with Cal Newport

Computers and Technology in Education at The Heights by Michael Moynihan

When is Your Son Ready for a Smartphone with Mr. de Vicente

When is He Ready for a Smartphone with Mr. Alex Berthe

John Beatty

About the guest:

John Beatty


John serves at The Heights as Director of Information Technology. He is also an alumnus, graduating from The Heights in 2007; he went on the study Computer Science, Business and Math at Virginia Tech, finishing in 2010. He worked for a number of technology companies and startups in the D.C. area, as well as releasing iPhone apps on his own. John resides in Virginia with his wife and children.