Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife invited her 56-year-old sister to stay at our house for a couple of days, and we gave her total access to the house. I needed to check my emails, and I went to the reading room where the family computer is located. When I opened the door, I was shocked to see what was on the computer: My sister in-law was watching an adult movie. I wanted to yell at her, but my mouth shut because of the shock. After I got my composure, I told my sister-in-law that she cannot use our family computer without supervision. I do not have the time to supervise an adult while she surfs the Internet. I like my sister-in-law, and I want her to continue to feel comfortable in our home. How can I prevent anyone from visiting inappropriate adult content on my family's computer? By the way, I do not have children. My wife and I just do not appreciate porn and do not ever have it in our home. -- Computer Blue, Atlanta

DEAR COMPUTER BLUE: You can put parental controls on your computer to ensure that no one can access adult content or any other content that you deem inappropriate for your home. Go to for instructions. If you regularly have houseguests, you may want to tell them to bring their own computer. Or, you can put a label on the home computer saying "Please limit your Internet usage to X, Y and Z."

These measures could be extreme, though. It could be that your sister-in-law is an anomaly. You may simply need to deal with her directly and make it clear to her that she crossed a line and you do not appreciate it. Chances are she is embarrassed by being caught watching pornography, so you do not need to beat her over the head with her transgression. For others who may come across a pornographic site either unintentionally or intentionally, use parental controls to block them out.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My 3-year-old son is starting preschool in a few weeks, and he is excited about going to school. He can use the bathroom on his own, but I am wondering if I should pack a few diapers in his book bag to prevent any potential accidents. -- Momma's Boy, Brooklyn, N.Y.

DEAR MOMMA'S BOY: Contact the preschool and ask what its policy is. It may suggest that you not send diapers and talk to your son about being a big boy and remembering to ask to go to the bathroom. (Commonly, preschools have backup diapers in case of emergency.) Or it may suggest that you pack diapers and give them to the teacher without your son seeing them, so that extras are on hand in case of an accident but that your child doesn't know that the crutch is there.

Most important is for you to make sure your son is comfortable as he takes this big step. Continue to practice using the bathroom with him. Point out that he will be doing this on his own in school and that he can do it!