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The Changing Rules of Cyber-Parenting

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It's so easy to be smug and confident before you have kids.

Kid infront of computer

Momlogic's Yvette: Several years ago, before I became a mom, I produced a news series on protecting children from pedophiles on the Internet. I interviewed a young boy who took off with a pedophile he met online and even sat and listed as his heartbroken father pleaded for other parents to learn from his own mistakes.

I sat with the FBI as agents went undercover online and was amazed how within five minutes of logging on as a young boy, one agent was propositioned for sex. It was an incredible experience, which won me an Emmy Award for the series. So, naturally, after all this research and firsthand experience, I was sure that I would be on top of things when I became a mother.

Fast forward a few years and I'm now the mom of two precocious kids who love nothing more than to spend hours online playing on their favorite websites. I thought I was prepared for this, I thought I knew the rules of safe cyber-surfing -- but now I've come to realize that the rules have changed and I'm just like every other parent trying to find that fine line between allowing our kids to use the Internet productively and allowing our kids to become targets.

Back when I did the series, there were a few golden rules of safe surfing:
• Never put the computer in a child's room.
• Always make sure the computer is in a common area, like the kitchen.
• Use parental firewalls.
• Talk to your children about online safety and make sure they never divulge personal information.

Now while these rules still hold true, websites like Facebook and MySpace are making cyber-parenting a bit more complicated. While we still need to teach our kids these basic rules of safety, I think it's also key to teach them the difference between their online lives and their real lives. Our kids are growing up in a world where everything is lived online, every aspect of their lives is posted for public consumption. I don't know about you, but I have a problem with that.

My 7-year-old asked for her own Facebook page the other day and I refused. I think she's still too young for that. I may be in the minority here, as I see lots of other kids her age have already logged on. But I don't really see the need for a child to post her comings and goings and personal photos. Here's the thing: while these websites can be a great social tool, people's lives are also being ruined with catty, nasty comments and inappropriate photos finding themselves online.

No, I'm not worried about my 7-year-old getting drunk and having someone snap her picture, (duh!). What concerns me is that our kids are becoming too comfortable with living their lives online. As far as I'm concerned, a little privacy goes a long way. But unfortunately, these days, parents not only need to teach our children the perils of stranger danger, it's the online friends we have to worry about as well.


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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
mariah December 16, 2008, 2:16 PM

Online can be really hard for kids. I have teenagers and they have been bullied on-line. I have major time restrictions for my kids. I agree, everybody is way too comfortable living their life on-line. What happened to climbing trees?

Anonymous December 16, 2008, 2:39 PM

Kidzui is a safer alternative for younger kids. I feel better knowing my kids are locked into a kid friendly browser.

annalise December 16, 2008, 2:40 PM

I have a hard time with this. There are so many sick people just waiting to take advantage of kids that I have some very sctrict rules in place about computer usage. I really do not like all of these websites that allow children to advertise themselves on line. It’s hard for parents to know what’s wrong and what’s right

Janice December 16, 2008, 3:47 PM

Thanks, I’ll try Kidzui - sounds better than the others

Janice December 16, 2008, 3:47 PM

Thanks, I’ll try Kidzui - sounds better than the others

Annie December 16, 2008, 4:30 PM

Never allow a child to keep a computer in their bedroom. Someone once told me it’s like inviting strangers into your kid’s room


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