While we struggle to integrate the Net into our lives, our kids don't know an existence without it. Like all tools, the Internet is neither good nor bad; it simply has good and bad uses. Making sure your child is a smart and safe “Internet citizen”, and being able to tell the good from the bad, is a new task that parents must take on in the 21st century.
One of the most important ways to make your child a smart Internet citizen is to educate them on the risks of posting information online. One of the realities of cyberspace is that free speech can become a loose cannon when wielded by teens and tweens. Kids who get mad at a teacher and rashly publish a scathing and obscene lampoon on a site like MySpace.com aren't thinking that it could prevent them from getting a scholarship or job years down the line. But this can and has happened. Because even good kids may share comments that will cause them problems down the road, it's essential to teach kids the dangers of speaking too freely online.
Research shows that the part of the brain that controls impulses and mitigates rash behavior isn't fully developed until well into young adulthood. So while it's great to educate kids about digital trails and the effect they can have later on, we need to protect our children from their impulses. Parents provide safe places in the physical world for their kids to congregate and interact, and they need to do no less in the virtual world.
Whether parents are worried about pedophiles and cyberbullies or about self-authored content that could brand our children forever, the answer is the same: we need a compelling, yet protected environment in which kids can create and share content, and where kids can safely develop the skill sets they will need in the Internet age. And we must think of the long-term implications if we continue to leave them to their own devices.
Tips to keep your children safe on the Internet:
Monitor what your kids are posting. Invest in software that allows you to view your kid’s chat rooms.
Keep kids from wandering around the web. Bookmark safe and pre-approved sites that your kids can easily access
Keep communication open. Parents should teach their children to ask questions about anything they see (on the Internet), and not punish them for it. Ensure that kids understand what information can and cannot be shared online with anyone.
Review any Web sites, profiles, and screen names kids post online. Ensure they can't share pictures online or set up blogs and Webcams without your permission.
Regulate who your child interacts with on the web. Block all contacts except those who are pre-approved.
For a fun tween social networking site that's parent and teacher approved check out: imbee.com