21st Century Parenting
What sites? What age? What leash?
Online social networking sites began with college students. They have become immensely popular with adults of all ages. Now it seems, that this popularity has sparked a trend among young people as well. Children are lying about their age online in order to create Facebook and Myspace pages-sometimes with their parents' permission.
Social networking sites, like Club Penguin, that are actually targeted towards younger children are also starting to appear. These events should come as no surprise to savvy twenty first century parents, who know that their children are among the most digitally connected people in the world. Online social networking for the young is simply a logical extension of services like texting-another way to keep in touch.
Still, it can be difficult to know exactly what kind of connectivity is appropriate for your children and how to protect them from the numerous online threats that seem massed against them .
Is Online Social Networking Bad?
Although studies on the subject are still in their infancy, scientists actually believe that this kind of digital connectivity, when properly supervised, is good for your children. The research that does exist shows that most of the people that children connect with and talk to online are the same people that they socialize with in person.
In these cases, children are using online social networking tools as they would any other social tool available to them-the phone, for instance. Parents who worry about online interaction superceding personal interactions in the physical world are largely mistaken in their concerns. Instead, their children are building social skills that they will need both digitally and in the real world as they get older.
Protecting Your Children Online
This does not mean, however, that parents should simply allow their children to have unsupervised or unrestricted access to the online world. On the contrary, while experts say that children exposed to predators and other dangerous situations online are relatively rare statistically speaking, it only takes a single moment of inattentive interaction for a child to become a target. Take steps to protect your child online the same way you would in the real world-pay attention and be an active part of their life.
- Insist that the computer be in a public part of the house and limit their daily or weekly allotment of time there.
- Place protective software on the machine and know how to use it.
- Bookmark your children's favorite sites to keep them from accidentally arriving at unintended locations.
- Help your children set up their profiles on social networking sites in order to make sure that as little personal information as possible is available online.
- Teach your children to protect themselves as well, let them know about the fact that there are all kinds of predators on the internet and how to discourage them.
- Know who your child is talking to online and whether they know these people in real life or not.
The key to all of these efforts to keep your child safe online is knowledge-both yours and your child's.
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