Internet Safety for Kids

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Parenting & Technology: Social Networking Web Sites and More

[] Well-said by Grant Garrett. It's important to keep in touch with your kids. You need to be open to them and develop a trust and relationship. Be involved with their online activities just as you would in their offline activities. If you know they play baseball on Wednesdays after school then shouldn't you know that they are online at on Fridays after school with their online friends?

As a Geek Squad Agent and a father of a six year-old, I am already preparing myself for how difficult it might be to monitor my own daughter�s online activities as she grows up. Computer and technology integration in the classroom expose children to the Internet at an increasingly young age. With the largest group of new Internet users being kids ages 2 to 5, it�s no wonder that parents, like myself, are apprehensive as soon as their child begins to use the Internet on their own.

Move from the classroom to the family room, and you encounter a growing number of online community sites like MySpace, Friendster and Xanga that are available to anyone of any age. While the recommended age for signing up for these sites is 13, it is important to remember that you cannot count on these sites to prevent your underage child from signing up. Remind your children that by sharing personal information and photos they may also run the risk of strangers � as well as friends � trying to contact them.

Here are several ways you can help your kids can use social networking Web sites safely.

  • Communication is Key: Take the time to talk to your child about the potential dangers of posting personal information on the Internet. Demonstrate how basic information such as a zip code, a school mascot�s name and an after school sport practice schedule could be pieced together by a stranger as a way to identify an online user.
  • Be �In The Know�: Take the time to learn about the popular online communities your child might frequent. As you examine each site try to keep in mind your child�s perspective and truly understand why they might find the site so intriguing.
  • One-on-One Session: Whether you consider yourself to be tech-savvy or tech-illiterate, schedule a computer training session with your child. This is a great opportunity for your child to show you their favorite Web sites, including profiles on any online communities they like to visit. Ask them to explain how the online communities work and then suggest they help you build a profile page. When you see that your child is comfortable sharing ask if you can link your profile to their site. This allows you to monitor their log-in activity and profile updates in a very non-invasive manner.
  • Computer-Specific Techniques. There are various tactics you can do to protect your child without them even realizing your intentions.
    • Enable parental controls so that your child cannot access inappropriate Web sites
    • Install software such as PC Moderator, ContentProtect, iShield or Safe Eyes 2006 to limit site access and monitor activity history
    • Set the computer so that the entire family shares a login and password
    • Place the computer in an open area of the house

Now as I watch my daughter become more familiar with the computer, I realize how important it is to develop house rules at an early age that we can both agree on and understand. Remember, it is never too early to educate your children about the potential dangers of particular web sites. Just make sure to weave all the good information and experiences found online, as well.

Victor Kimura


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