Monday, February 9, 2009

Protecting Tweens and Teens on the Internet

As we are facing the reality of having a teenager in the house (six months to go until the 13th birthday!!), I am reflecting on what we could be facing in the coming years...

Chris is such a good-natured, sweet, and somewhat naive preteen. He never says an unkind word about anyone (he's much better behaved than his parents!) and he is very trusting.

He's also always been drawn to media and the computer. These days, the only really potentially harmful thing he does is watch youtube videos and read my blog! (Ha! So I must be careful of what I write here!!) I shocked Chris the other day by confessing to him that sometimes I use foul language. I figured that he's almost a teen, so I must gradually clue him in that his mom is not perfect!

We've sheltered our kids to a great extent by not letting them watch violent films or play violent video games...and Chris don't possess a cell phone (much to his chagrin) or have a myspace page. However, I realize it's just a matter of time...before he's on myspace, texting his friends, and using whatever the next tech tool will be...

I recently discovered this really great site that focuses on educating parents and kids about safe use of the internet. It has educational videos and blogs, and it also has a site with information and real-life profiles of teens and tweens, written and presented in a way that appeals to them. I'm going to direct Chris to this site so he can learn more about how to safely navigate the internet. Apparently cyberbullying is one of the greatest risks of teen internet use, in spite of all of the typical parental fears about online predators. (It's not to say that this is not a risk, but apparently cyberbullying is an even greater issue.) Most adults have had some sort of experience with e-mail flames. There's something about a computer--and not having to say something to someone else's face--that gives a person the permission and relative anonymity to be just plain mean. It's not hard to imagine how some kids could abuse the internet to inflict harm on others.

So much to worry about with the teen years approaching!

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