November 2, 2009

Safety Net

Janet Golden, 4-H Agent III, Pinellas County Extension

Today's youth are as comfortable on the internet as previous generations were in brick and mortar gatherings. Youth not only look for information but also develop their own web sites and pages providing information about themselves. In fact many youth know much more about the internet than their parents, especially the social networking aspects. Think about internet as a big city or town with lots of places to go and things to do for young people. Now as a parent would you ever let your child wander free in any city or town without some guidelines or without you there depending on age? I am sure your answer is ‘no’, so the same should hold true for the internet. The following are a few guidelines to teach your youth safety on the web.

~ Make sure your child understands that the internet is not anonymous. Many times young people have email addresses and/or screen names that give away too much information about themselves. Be sure that these never contain their name, town, school, school mascot, favorite sport or activity, or family member names.

~ Chat rooms are very popular with tweens and teens. Remind your child that people online are not always who they say they are. There are many predators that use the internet to engage youth, so just because they say they are a 12 year old girl does not mean it is true. It is important to monitor your child’s chat sessions and/or talk to them about who they are chatting with online.

~ Keep the computer in a family area of the home and not in the child’s room. This allows the parent to monitor and provide support while their child is on the internet. Remember there are not only sexual predators online, but also predators looking to steal identities. Youth are a popular target because they or their parents are less like to run a credit check to see if their identity has been stolen.

~ Understand copyright regulations. Parents are responsible if their child is downloading music and movies without paying for them. It is illegal and you and your child need to understand the regulations.

~ Explore the internet with your child. As I mentioned before, many youth know the internet better than adults so take them time for them to teach you a few things.
If you would like to explore this topic further join me on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 from 12:15-12:45 for a free webinar called Safety Net.


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