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Keeping Kids Safe Online This Summer

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With summer right around the corner, our kids will be home with a lot more free time on their hands. Expect text messaging to go through the roof and online time to soar. In part four of our Cyber Safety series, find out what you can do to keep your kids safe in cyberspace this summer.

mother and daughter using laptop computer

Internet Safety Specialist Lori Getz: It's time to set some rules for keeping kids safe in cyberspace this summer! If you will be working outside the home with a babysitter watching the kids, make sure the babysitter is well versed in these rules as well.

Tip #1: Time management!
Kids need to find a balance when it comes to media time management. We want our children to be well-rounded and healthy people, and that means a sedentary lifestyle in front of the computer or Xbox will not accomplish that. We also want to keep our kids safe, and the longer they are online, the more opportunity there is to become exposed to inappropriate content, cyber-bullying, online predators, and Internet addiction.

Don't fight the technology here! You will only start an argument with your tween or teen about how "you don't get it"! Instead, talk to them about ergonomics. Health experts are beginning to see earlier onset of hand, eye, neck, back, and wrist problems in our children. Currently, the International Ergonomics Association and Ergonomics for Children and Educational Environments recommend that all computer users rest their eyes every 15 minutes by looking past the computer to something far away, and getting up from the workstation and moving every 30-60 minutes.

Tip #2: Treat the behavior, not the technology.
Understand that the Internet is very similar to our personal communities. There are just a lot more places to go and a lot more people to meet in cyberspace. The rules you have at home about where your kids can go and whom they can hang out with are the same rules that apply on the Internet. If you wouldn't let your children wander a mall alone, do not allow them to wander the Internet unsupervised. If your kids are older and more responsible and you would let them go to the mall alone but not see an "R"-rated movie, the same should apply online. They have a little more freedom but are still told they may not visit sexually explicit or other adult sites. Know your child's online friends, the same way you want to know them in the physical world. When you start comparing these "cyber questions" to the questions you ask of them as they walk out your front door, it stops being about the technology and starts being about the parenting.

Tip #3: Set expectations and limitations.
Parental controls are a great way to set expectations and limitations, but they are not foolproof! Your eyes and ears are still the best parenting tool you have. Kids have access to technology not only from your home, but at a friend's house, the public library, and even mobile devices. You need to make sure you are talking about what you believe is appropriate for them. Learn how to check your child's history. If they know how to clear the history, you may want to look at the parental controls within your operating system and check out the web log feature. This tracks every place they visit on the web, whether or not they clear the history.

Tip #4: STOP, BLOCK, and REPORT cyber-bullying.
If your child is a victim of cyber-bullying, you should encourage them to STOP -- do not respond to the bully. BLOCK -- stop the bully from sending any more messages. REPORT -- tell you or another trusted adult about the incident. The victim, who in this case is your child, should print out the ENTIRE conversation and show it to you.

Children report not telling their parents about cyber-bullying for fear the parents will take away the technology. It is important to remember the technology did not cause the problem. Support your child and help them decide the best course of action in dealing with the situation. One thing to remember as the parent: the TECHNOLOGY IS NOT THE CULPRIT, it's the person behind the technology.

How will you keep your kids safe this summer?

6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Denise June 11, 2009, 11:49 AM

Parents can keep their children safe this summer by reading a brand new publication entitled: “The Five Dangerous Trends Concerning Kids, Technology and the Internet.” Inside are real stories and challenges parents and families face for some of the most popular technologies children use and provides adults with information, tips, warnings and resources to aid in online child protection. It is available at all book stores and Amazon.

MarcomMom June 11, 2009, 12:48 PM

I try to balance things out with my nine-year-old. She has a certain number of hours to watch TV, be online, etc. Of course, in summer during non-day-camp weeks, it’s much easier to let things slide while her father and I work at home. So I try to set up playdates, have some fun crafts on hand, and go on special outings with her. I also try to sit with her every few days as she does things on Club Penguin or Webkinz and ask questions about what she’s doing and what’s happening there. I’m often shocked by how like the real world those virtual worlds can be.

Cristy June 11, 2009, 1:38 PM

What we do we put the computer where we can see what they’re doing and they only use the computer for school work and that’s it. If they want to check something is always the time that I always there and know what they checking.Time limit is always part of it. i guess how you make your kids busy at home so they can’t really find time to check the internet. I am glad that we like to talk and joke a lot and also glad i am a stay at home mom :)

Nora June 12, 2009, 2:40 PM

I installed a software program called Eblaster from Spector on my teens’ PCs (one Windows, one Mac). It emails me reports at work about what web sites they visit, who they chat with, MySpace activity and even would alert me immediately if they were to give out my credit card or their cell phone numbers. I can go online and block kids who curse or bad web sites too. My kids are good kids but kids will be kids and while I’m at work this is the only way to protect them (and let me sleep at night.)

Jennylou July 11, 2009, 8:23 PM

I bought my 8-year old a cell phone to take w/ him to summer camp. i wasn’t feeling too comfortable with the idea since there are older and bigger kids there. So I bought him his first phone at Walmart, a pay-as-you-go Tracfone Motorola W376 for under $30. It has a camera so I’ve encouraged him to take pictures of the other kids and places he goes to. I make it a point to look at these every day to encourage him to continue taking them - it’s another way to be with him while letting him enjoy his summer fun in the sun.

Used Golf Clubs September 21, 2010, 12:41 AM

Well done. I will definitely share this post with my friends. Thanks for that info.

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