April 23, 2009 is national “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work” day. This day was founded in 1993 as a way to introduce children and young adults to career opportunities as well as demonstrate how skills learned at school will be applied later in life.
As much as our daughters and sons can learn about our careers; there is much that they can teach us about the Internet and Internet safety. I propose as an extension to “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work” day, that parents spend an extra hour or two at home with their children to learn about their world.
If you have never watched your child, niece or nephew navigate
a computer and the Internet; you will be shocked the first time you sit down
with them. Ironically, they may be able
to identify ways to optimize and/or automate your daily activities. Thank goodness for child labor laws;
otherwise, your next boss would probably be twelve! Our children are light years ahead of us when
it comes to finding information on the Internet. Unfortunately, many still lack the practical
experience to determine when they encounter a dangerous or unhealthy situation.
Remember how excited you were when you received that letter from half way around the globe as your pen pal reached out to you? Today’s children communicate daily with friends and relatives around the world. Through social networking sites such as Facebook and My Space, long lost friends or new ones are only a few keyboard and mouse clicks away. Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce are a few other places where kids are sharing information about their daily lives. Using cell phones, these posts can happen anytime, anywhere giving the world up-to-the-minute updates. Celebrities like Erika Badu have gone as far as blogging their childbirth experience.
While this information is harmless when shared among friends and family; it may have serious consequences when obtained by the wrong person. Cyberbullying and cyberstalking are examples of overt Internet crimes. Online predators are manipulating our children to engage in dangerous and sometimes deadly situations. Despite the popularity of news programs like NBC Dateline’s, “To Catch a Predator;” there continues to be increases in online predation.
This leads us all the way back to what started this blog; Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. This is a great opportunity to reach out to your children and learn what they have encountered on the Internet. Find out what sites they visit regularly. If they have a Facebook or My Space account, it might not hurt to set up one of your own to monitor their online activities. Ensure they are not posting private information such as their address and/or phone numbers online. Be aware when they are blogging their whereabouts.
Finally, a kilobit of prevention is worth a gigabyte of cure. If you don’t have an Internet filter installed on your home computer(s)…get one. There are many free ones available. You can download a couple of them here and here. Get involved with your children’s social networks. Besides ensuring they are not disclosing sensitive information, you may find yourself catching up with old friends and making new ones. Keep the computers in an open location as opposed to the children’s rooms. There is no reason to wait until somebody comes up with “Take Your Parents to the Internet” day, to start protecting our children today.
ICYC (In case you're curious), if you don't understand what the title of this post means; it wouldn't hurt to know the lingo your children use to communicate over IM (instant messenger) and txt (text messaging). You can find a list of text lingo here. What you find there may surprise you. Especially when you find yourself the AITR.