Magazine article Work & Family Life

Staying on Top of Your Child's Online Activities

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Staying on Top of Your Child's Online Activities

Article excerpt

It's 8 pm on a school night and, chances are, your children are sitting in front of a computer. And if they're like many kids, they're on a social networking website. A new Pew Research Center study found that 90 percent of kids from 12 to 17 use the Internet and 75 percent are on social networking sites.

Social networks are places where kids hang out together online - like Club Penguin and Webkinz for young kids to the ever-present Facebook. The sites work pretty simply: kids sign up and get a profile to post pictures, poems, art and links to songs. They write about the things they enjoy and connect with their

Kids feel a lot of pressure to social networking. Sharing photos and videos, instant messaging plaving online games have become an important part of their lives.

Why it matters

Unless they use privacy controls, everything kids "show and tell" is available for all the world to see. And people do see these pages -strangers, college admissions officers, even potential employers.

The fact that a child is savvy technically doesn't mean he or she is mature enough to appreciate the consequences of online activities. And even with privacy controls, there are ways to get into someone's pages. Revealing personal information is a bad idea, but it's a major challenge for parents and teachers to convince kids ofthat.

Parent tips for kids 5-8

Stick with age-appropriate sites with strong safety features that help kids play - without risking inappropriate content or contact.

Tips for middle school kids

FACEBOOK officially is for kids 13 and over, but younger children just make themselves older. And even if schools block facebook on their computer networks, students say its easy to get around the ban. Check your child's browser history. If you see Facebook, he or she very likely has an account.

THINK BEFORE POSTING. Remind kids of the vast, invisible audience in cyberspace. It's a good idea to have access to middle school kids' pages, at least at first, to be sure you approve of what's being posted. Help keep children from doing something they will regret later.

ENSURE PRIVACY SETTINGS. They're not foolproof, but they're all we have. Activate them on your child's favorite sites, and teach your child how they work.

KINDNESS COUNTS. Many sites have anonymous features such as "bathroom wall" or "honesty boxes" that allow users to tell their friends what they think of them. Rule of thumb: If your child would not make the comment to someone's face, he or she should not post it.

GO ONLINE. Open an account and check out your kids' favorite sites. See what they can and can't do.

Tips for high school kids

KEEP TALKING ABOUT THE "FOREVERNESS" OF CYBERSPACE Remind teens that anyone can see what's on their pages - and, as we've learned, the wrong people often do. …

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