How to Keep Your Kids Safe on the Internet
Kelly has a concern shared by a lot of parents in today's computer age. "I have five kids (four teenagers) always on the computer -- before school, after school, before bed, on the weekends. I can't seem to get them off. There's a lot of sites out there where they can talk to people and connect with people and I'm not sure who they are. I'd love to find a way to check out who they're connecting with."
Rachael's Web site buddy Regina Lewis tells parents what they need to know about their children's online activity. "If your child doesn't have a myspace page, they will any minute now," Regina says. (For those not familiar with this hugely popular site, myspace allows users to create their own personal page on which they can display photos, list all kinds of information about themselves including their likes and dislikes, and link to other friends -- or strangers -- who also have myspace accounts.) "Myspace isn't a bad space," Regina says, "but you have to make sure your kids are playing their cards right in the online social networking game."
Regina first recommends asking your kids if they have a myspace page or if they use a similar site. You can do this nonchalantly without making them feel defensive about it. Ask them to show it to you -- give them a day to show you, and if they don't, look for yourself. You can do a search for their page through various methods, including your child's e-mail address, school, county you live in, etc.
Once you get to the page, read through it (preferably with your child) and make sure it follows Regina's safety guidelines:
• Most importantly, the page should be "private" -- this allows only those users whom your child knows to see their page. (If you are under 15, the default for myspace pages is private, but she recommends that all kids should choose the option of private.)
• The page should not give out too much information. In addition to personal information which should never be posted (phone numbers, addresses), your child shouldn't use myspace as a calendar -- it should not be easy for a predator to track down where and when your child will be.
• There shouldn't be anything inappropriate on the page, whether it be photos or language. Everyone from employers to college recruiters "Google" people and you wouldn't want something offensive on your child's myspace page to come back to haunt them.
• Monitor the photos your child puts up. They could give away what your child does on weekends, and provocative photos could draw the attention of predators.
• Pay attention to the comments people post on your child's page. They could link your child to specific places and make them easy to find.
For more information, check out myspace's Safety Tips for Parents.
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