Tuesday, 07 February 2012 00:00

It's Safer Internet Day! A perfect time to teach your kids about safer online playgrounds.

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Growing up, we had the run of the neighborhood.  Back then, kids everywhere ran home when the streetlights turned on.  Ah, the good old days.

Today we’ve largely moved kids indoors in the name of safety.  It also means kids spend more time surfing the Internet to play games, socialize with friends, and explore the world at large – just like we did in the neighborhood.

So as parents, we’ve got to preserve the safety of our children’s online interactions and playtime with the same attention we give to their safety on the street.    If you know your Internet safety savvy could use a little polishing - today’s Safer Internet Day (SID) is a great place to start!

Power of the Parent:  You’re still the greatest influence over online behavior

Chances are, even if you’re not always certain how to protect your children, you are aware

of the dangers lurking online – predators, cyber bullying and identity theft.  And while as parents we often feel what we say goes right in one ear and out the other – the truth is, we’re still the greatest influence over our children’s online usage and behavior.

But it’s a partnership.

Technology provides a new platform on which the generations can come together.  According to the SID website, 73 per cent of children say their peers have helped or supported their Internet use.  However, children say they receive most online safety advice from parents (63 per cent), then teachers (58 per cent), other relatives (47 per cent), then peers (44 per cent).

I don’t have to tell you kids navigate computers with lighting speed.  I ask mine to teach me.  It’s empowering to them, and together you can learn how to create a safe, secure environment.

So set aside the laundry, the bills and your own laptop for just a few minutes today and strike up a conversation.  Check out our tips to share with your kids – after all, Internet safety is right up Lucky Kat’s ally!

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Safety:  Tips from the Trenches

1.  Tell your kids not to giveaway personal information.   Make certain your kids know they should never post information such as a home address, birth date, etc. online.   Many kids create profiles on sites where they play games – help them create an online alias for each – but they should always ask first.

2.  Tell your kids not to interact with anyone online you don’t know personally.  This is essential – I tell my own kids that their online interactions should be an extension of their real ones.  Help your kids understand that we never truly know who a person is – online, you can create a name, age, and even picture to misrepresent yourself.  (These conversations are not my favorite, but necessary!)

 3.  Monitor online activity in a common area of the house.  It’s so tempting to let the kids play while you get things done – I get it!  Ensure your kids play online in an area where you can supervise their surfing, or set up your computer’s parental controls so they can only visit sites you approve.  (Check out websites for a seal of approval from a reliable source, such as the one we’ve earned on LuckyKatWorld.com from Truste!)

4.  Get to know their games.   If your child, tween or teen plays games with others in an open, online environment, sit down and play.  Many online gaming sites are monitored, and gamers can report offensive language or behavior.  Make it a rule that your child cannot “friend” players he or she doesn’t know personally.  Let them teach you – trust me, they know a lot more than we do!  Then, outline their boundaries together.

5.  Teach appropriate online behavior.  The rule at our house is to never post anything we wouldn’t want grandma to read!  Remember to encourage your kids in that their online presence must reflect the same integrity and manners you require in real time.  And if a friend or peer makes your child feel uncomfortable in any way, make certain they trust you enough to talk with you about it.

I know this topic can create some anxiety for parents.  But I think we also need to let our children explore the world.  Luckily, the web provides plenty of places to source tools, tips and resources to help ensure your child enjoys a safe place to play, learn and grow.  And take a page from your kids’ playbook and talk to your own peers about how they manage safety online.

Happy Safer Internet Day!

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