Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Online Safety ABC's

If you’re looking for a simple set of rules to set for your daughter’s online time, FEMA (of all places - not sure how this qualifies as a FEMA responsibility, but it is good advice!) offers six must-remember points. These include basics, such as never giving out personal information or pictures, and never agreeing to meetings with strangers met online. They also include a rule that kids must always let their parents know who they’re meeting online.

For younger children, the FBI offers age-specific guidelines for grades K-5. These include letting an adult know if something or someone online makes girl uncomfortable or scared, in addition to the basics about never sharing personal information. Regular, casual conversations about feeling comfortable and safe online is a great way to guide and monitor your daughter’s online experience, no matter how old she is.

As with any really important influence in her life, it's most important that you actually know and experience what she's doing online. That means spending time at the same sites she does both with her and on your own. Get engaged in what she's doing online as a fun thing to share, not a way to spy. You'll learn a lot about her and her peers in the process (like the conversations you overhear when driving the carpool). Just "listening," or watching (in the case of the web) will teach you a lot.

Last but not least, be totally above-board and open with her about the age-appropriate boundaries you set for her web use. You can create an “online contract” with her input that includes the things you feel are most important. Involving her in writing the contract is particularly effective in providing the opportunity to talk with her about your concerns in an non-threatening way.

Let me know how you negotiate this new media arena with your daughters - share your tips so we can all learn from each other.

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