Now that the holidays are over some grandfamilies have expressed concern about electronics in the hands of their children - cell phones that can do just about anything, cameras of all sizes, and computers. All of these devices put kids online for many reasons. We want the children to be able to use these miraculous tools, but we also want them to be safe and respectful to themselves and others.
Some valuable websites are available for caregivers of children. Briefly check the following regularly:
www.wiredsafety.org - Dr. Parry Aftab manages an exceptional source for parents, grandparents, teachers, law enforcement and all who are involved with the protection of children online. The latest anxiety about children online is sexting, sex talk and pictures. On January 22, Parry will present a panel discussion on a variety of media sites. Go to Wiredsafety for more information and other internet news on kids.
www.isafe.org - funded by those who use the site and launched by Congress, this website is geared toward educators including offers of print copies on internet safety programs.
www.esrb.org - This valuable non-profit, Entertainment Software Rating Board, rates games (and don't we have games!) for student use. Other information is also available about upcoming products from game producers.
www.netlingo.com - is a website for everyone using computers for communications including texting and online social networks. Though much of the site includes everyone, adults and children, there are two important resources - Erin on line talks about protecting children on the web, and the column called Top 50 web lingos every parent should know. These are web codes most often used by children and teens that exclude parents and guardians from the conversation. For instance:
CD9 - Code nine Parents are around
LMIRL - Let's Meet in Real Life
F2F - Face to Face
GNOC - Go Naked on Camera
and some are using numerical codes:
459 or 143 - I Love You
420 - Marijuana
8 - oral sex
Scary as this sounds we need to be aware of what children use the internet for and how to protect them.
The very best way is to talk with your young electronic users . . . often! Not necessarily talking at them, but listening as well. Let them know that nudity on the web, particularly by underage users is being scrutinized in many areas and may result in criminal action even against underage users. Beyond the legal issues, young teens need to know that respect on the internet is very important. No camera shots in the locker room, no participating in suspicious invites on line or in real life. Talk about futures and the global reach of the internet. Employers are increasingly checking on their prospective employees' social use of the internet.
Kinship kids may be vulnerable to shady adventures, but we are finding that kinship children in safe environments with relatives who love them are actually more mature than many children in the general population.
This topic is very serious for all of us. In A Kinship Guide to Rescuing Children, we devoted an entire chapter to Children in Today's Electronic World (p.113 to p 126). Topics covered include the good and the bad of the internet world, virtual gaming, cell phones, texting, and one thing seldom mentioned - the cost of these powerful communication devices.
It is indeed a brave new world we face today - exciting, adventures, full of oo's and ah's, but also testing our abilities to be smart and protective of ourselves and our children. Just keep talking and exploring together as we all work for a better world.
Happy New Year,