Internet Safety and Our Children

This past week there were two internet safety presentations for parents in our community. I was a speaker at one, and a guest at another. I will create a page on this blog that will provide resources for parents, as there were many requests for specific steps that parents can take. Things have changed quite a bit in the last ten years, but a good dose of common sense and learning about internet safety goes a long way toward minimizing many of the online risks that our children may encounter.

What hasn’t changed is that parents, teachers, social workers, camp directors, and anyone else who works with children must be aware of the risks and benefits related to adolescents using the internet. On my “Internet Safety Page” I will include a number of common sense guidelines for parents, but it’s important to realize that these guidelines provide, at best, a safety net for our children. Educating them on the importance of keeping private information private, proper ways in which to interact online, and the value of creating an appropriate online persona is essential. Equally important is that our children understand that there is no privacy online, and that what is posted to the internet may remain there indefinitely.

The common guideline of keeping any computer(s) with internet access in a public part of your home still applies, but it’s important to remember that things have changed, and the computer is not the only way in which our children access the internet. There are many other ways they access the internet daily, including using their cellphone, ipod, Nintendo Gameboy, X-Box 360, and more. In fact, if there’s any doubt as to how interactive these new devices are, I suggest reading Microsoft’s account of a blossoming love between online gamers , including this excerpt which Microsoft has posted to its website:

“She just wouldn’t stop shooting me—even when she was on my team.” Jim had Nicky laughing so hard that she says her cheeks hurt. Jim made his move and called her into a private room to tell her what a good time he had in the game. …“When I got on XboxLive, I certainly wasn’t looking to hook up, much less meet the love of my life,” she says.

Our children are frequently interacting in a global community, and will need to do so to succeed in the future. The ease and frequency with which this is taking place demands that we, as adults, are familiar with the associated risks and responsibilities and that we work with our children to ensure the experiences are safe and productive.

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