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Friday, February 29, 2008

More Internet Safety

Last week when I wrote about networking sites, a number of readers asked me to write on how to check your child’s email and networking sites.
· It is fairly easy for your child, or anyone else to have an email account you know nothing about; so as I pointed out last week, getting your child’s buy-in to the rules of computer use is a powerful tool. I urge you to resist the temptation to not allow computer use for a number of reasons, not least of which is the importance of using computers in modern education.
· Make sure you have a list of ALL the usernames and passwords of all the sites your child frequents. Check these sites often, to include checking the email they receive if you believe there is reason to do so.
· Consider starting your own page on any networking site of which your child wishes to become a member. Ensure they make you “a friend” on their page. This allows you to see whatever the internet public can see so you can keep tabs on them. You may connect with old friends or classmates yourself and it might also make you seem “cool” to your child, but don’t hold your breath.
· MySpace, for example, will remove a child’s page if the parent asks them to, however you must know the web address or the web ID number. You can do a by name search if your teen can’t/won’t help you.
· Ensure that your child knows how to “block” any MySpace/Yahoo/Facebook user that might harass or post inappropriate comments or email. Report any such activity to the provider of those services. Email and social network providers all take such activity very seriously and will respond to your concerns promptly.
· Check the web pages your child frequents by looking at the “history” in your web browser. Web browsers are programs such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Again, if you find this difficult to figure out, your child or grandchild can help you the first few times.
The internet is an incredible information-sharing tool, but like most tools, the internet can be used to do great harm. Ignoring this tool in the information age is not a successful strategy for a child’s long-term success, as almost every job and function in society is tied to many others and they all have to share information. Children have to learn to negotiate the world they live in now, not the one their parents or grandparents were raised in and more to the point must prepare for their own future.
I believe a healthy dose of caution is always a good thing for a parent; however abject, unreasoned fear is as bad as a lack of caution. Children need parents to get up to speed on these issues and stay out front because the ability to share information quicker is only going to get more important in society and technology is only going to be more integrated into our lives.
Tagline: Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. Mark has completed graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a PhD in Leadership studies at Gonzaga University. He is happy to speak or provide a workshop for your organization and can be reached at

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