Dear Ann: I am a 26-year-old professional woman, and I work at home. My computer was bought and is maintained by my company.
I recently hosted a family get-together. Several of my nieces and nephews attended, including my 12-year-old niece, "Sharon." When the younger kids became bored with the adult party, Sharon asked if she could use my computer to play some games. I agreed, figuring she was old enough to handle it herself.
The next day, I logged on to my computer and noticed that there were several web sites that had been accessed, apparently by Sharon. I did some investigating, and discovered she had accessed a site with graphic pornographic pictures and stories of an explicit sexual nature. Normally, Sharon would be unable to visit these sites, but my computer does not have blocking software, and she had no trouble at all.
I have no idea how to handle this. Sharon's mother is in her 50s, and while I would not say she is square, I don't think she realizes how much kids know these days. Also, I'm sure it would destroy my relationship with Sharon if I betray her by telling her parents that she is looking at pornography on the computer. An additional problem is that my computer is supposed to be for business use only. Our company policy expressly prohibits use of the Internet for anything personal, and I fear a reprisal from my employer. Please tell me the best way to handle this tricky situation. Aunt in Omaha, Neb.
Dear Omaha Aunt: Keep your lip zipped. Don't tell Sharon's mother "how much kids know these days." Apparently, Sharon is knowledgeable about accessing all sorts of material online, but the next time she asks to use your computer, say, "Sorry, but my computer is for business use only." If your employer asks about this incident, explain it honestly, and hope for the best.
While there is a great deal of worthwhile information available online, there is also a lot of garbage. Parents should establish strict rules regarding computer use, and impose severe penalties if those rules are not obeyed. They should also install blocking software, if necessary, to keep their kids from accessing inappropriate sites.
Dear Ann: I read "Why I Fired My Secretary," which appeared on Secretary's Day. It was about a guy who thought his family forgot his birthday, and was feeling unappreciated. His wonderful secretary remembered, however, and took him out for lunch. She then brought him to her apartment, turned down the lights, and went to "change into something more comfortable." When she came back into the room with a surprise birthday cake, along with his wife and kids, all he had on were his socks.
This column stirred quite a debate in our office. We wanted to know what became of the man. Was he already having an affair with the secretary, or was this just his way of getting even with his family for ignoring his birthday? The men in our department think he was set up by his wife, and the women think the secretary was getting her revenge because he ended their previous affair. What do you say, Ann? The Office Staff in Richmond, Va.
Dear Staff: Interesting conclusions, but I don't agree with any of the above. I believe when the secretary went to get the cake, the boss impulsively decided to go for broke, and took off all his clothes. Little did he know that his wife and kids would be part of the birthday surprise. I have always said surprise parties can be disastrous, and this proves it.
Gem of the Day (Credit Napoleon Bonaparte): Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.