Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Internet Safety

"As parents, we understand the risks that come with our children's growing independence and we know how to protect and advise them. I remember when my young daughter wanted to ride her bike around the block on her own. I was anxious but I let her go. I understood the risks and where the boundaries should be set. "

This is how Mr. Doug Fodeman, a nationally recognized expert on keeping our children safe online, who runs Children Online, a site educating parents on Internet risks and a Time4Learning Educational Advisory Board starts his talks with advice for parents. He continues:

"Unfortunately, this same intuitive understanding of risks is not true for most parent with the internet. Most parents are unaware of the risks and dangers that await children on the Internet. As wonderful a tool as the Internet is, it has many sites that are not age-appropriate for our children, sites with opportunities for our children to interact with strangers of all ages, and places that put children at risk for harm such as bullying, personal encounters, and addictive behavior." Strange though it may seem, a child can be very influenced by a stranger or group of strangers over the net and can make terrible lapses in judgement in giving out personal information

First recommendation, young children should be supervised at all times on the computer and net. This is to protect the computer and the children. Many parents place the computer screen so that they can easily see it while they are working or cooking. Put the computer with the screen facing the inside of the room (so its easy to see) and perhaps in the parents home office or kitchen but not in the children's own bedroom. This is a great policy into the early teen years.
Second recommendation, get and stay informed about safety on the net. Good sites to look at are: Children Online, Get NetWise, and Parenting In an Electronic Age. And since the net and technology is evolving rapdily, plan on an annual update of your knowledge. Many schools host an annual evening helping parents to understand the risks from the evolving electronic media (remember, a cell phone can now also include email, chat, and web surfing!). If you need speakers, contact us and we might be able to suggest one.

Share your information about the risks with the children. We recommend that you reach an agreement with your child about the what they will and will not do on the net. There are a number of templates for this but essentially, the agreement helps you and your children communicate about the risks and how the child has to take responsibility for not disclosing any personal information. We recommend that the signed agreement be taped to the wall by the computer.

Third recommendation, purchase and install web filtering software for all children under the age of 16. Web filtering software acts as a barrier between your child and the Internet. It attempts to filter out bad/inappropriate content before your child sees it. Filters help support the boundaries you set such as the hours of usage, the sites that they can visit, and their usage of email or instant messaging. We recommend Cyberpatrol for the PC and Content Barrier for the Mac. Also, parents should look at all electronic media and find a trusted source of family-friendly info on electronic media.

Lastly, while it's important that you understand and manage the risks of your children using the Internet, we believe that you should make efforts to have your children take advantage of the Internet. Just like bicycles and cars and sports, there are risks. But these risks are manageable.

Time4Learning is a great example of an online learning program for homeschool or enrichment. Time4Learning has helped thousands of children with a curriculua covering from PreSchool thru Middle School. Each child gets their own individual learning path full of lessons, learning games, printable worksheets, and assessments.

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