MAKING YOUR CHILDREN CYBER SAVVY; Creating a Family Contract Can Help with Safe Online Behavior

Article excerpt

Just as you would teach a preschooler how to cross the street and a teenager how to drive, children need guidance on navigating the online world safely and responsibly.

After all, the potential consequences of reckless behavior can be just as damaging to a child's reputation, mental or physical health or future life opportunities. Creating a family contract that defines the expectation and rules of online and technology use is a good place to start.

Stephan Balkam, chief executive officer of the Family Online Safety Institute, says such a document should be a conversation starter.

"As early as your kids can read and write" is when you should formalize the lessons about being a responsible digital citizen, he said.

"We're giving younger and younger children more powerful mobile devices," Balkam said. This gives them a way to begin to negotiate this digital world.

We examined various models of contracts online and have compiled a sample document for both a young child and a teenager. Each is a starting point and can be amended to suit your family's needs. The start of the school year is chance to review and gather everyone's signatures. Keep the contract handy, in a visible place near the computers in the home.

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FOR CHILDREN

1. I will never share or post personal information such as my address, telephone number, the name of my school. If anyone asks for this, I'll tell my parents or teacher.

2. I will get up from the computer right away and tell a parent or teacher if something makes me feel uncomfortable or scared.

3. I will never meet someone I met online nor talk to strangers. I will tell my parent or a teacher if someone asks to meet me.

4. I will not post or send pictures or videos of myself without my parent's permission.

5. I will not share my passwords with anyone, not even my best friends.

6. I will not hurt anyone's feelings online, or use rude or mean language.

7. I will not respond to any mean or hurtful messages or ones that make me feel uncomfortable. …

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