Common Sense Social Networking
As the mother of teens and tweens, it's a daily task to observe and reinforce good internet safety to my children. There was a time about ten years ago when my eldest daughter was eight years old and was on an internet site innocently chatting with someone who had a site with all sorts of G-rated jokes. She was laughing and quite giddy about the chat conversation she was having.
Unfortunately I was under the wrong impression that she was chatting with a school friend. Somehow, a stranger got her chat name and started a chat conversation with her. At that time I didn't know about parental controls on the internet or blocking. For those of you who don't know, "Blocking" is where you can prevent unknown and unwelcome people from knocking on your virtual chat door. In any case, it somehow came out by my daughter that in fact she was not chatting with a friend, but rather some unknown person.
In my surprise about this, rather than be calm and instruct her on internet safety, I blew up at her for being so careless and foolish about what she was doing. After my tornado of words came out at her, I realized, how could an 8-year old know about internet safety, it was my job as a parent to teach her what to do, just like it was my duty to teach her how to cross a street safely and not talk to strangers.
Ten years ago, the internet was relatively new. It was unchartered territory to me as a parent. I was barely aware of instant messaging myself. It was pre-Facebook and pre-iTouch. How things have changed.
In the eighteen years we have been parents, my husband and I have had high tech jobs. So our children grew up seeing us work on our laptops, emailing and instant messaging our colleagues. That was something adults did. But in the blink of an eye, it is not something only employees do as part of their job. Now our children have access to all sorts of tools to get on the internet wirelessly and email and text their friends as soon as they can use a mouse (which is really around two years old). But, just like teaching our children about safe sex, stranger danger, and "just say no", I realize it is just as important to teach safe internet socializing. We can't assume our children know as we do how to prevent a virus, how to understand what a spammer is, and how to know when an official looking email comes in from your bank or credit card company but is in fact a fraud. Therefore, to be sure I was doing all I could about it, I attended a recent internet safety presentation in Palo Alto this past Sunday.Continued on the next page