Monday, October 4, 2010

Internet Safety

The Wall Street Journal just released information from an investigation concerning online privacy on sites visited by children. They examined 50 sites to see what tracking tools they were using and how much information they gathered from children who visited the sites.

As a group the sites placed 4,23 cookies on the computers of the children who visited the sites. This is 30% more cookies than are found on the most popular US visited sites. In case you don’t know, a cookie is an electronic signature placed in your computer system when you visit an Internet site. It allows other sites to see where you have been on the Internet – to sort of track your preferences and activities.

It appears that companies are watching our kids even more than they are watching us.

Recently we asked the moms who read FAMILY Magazine to tell us what their concerns are about the internet and what they would like to see happen to help create a more secure experience for our children. Most moms said they were concerned. One suggestion was to put a domain name for adult sites that might be xxx.com. Other moms said they were concerned that parents of the friends of their children aren’t using the tools already available to limit access and monitor Internet usage. They felt their children were safe in their own home but not in the homes of some of their friends.

We also asked moms to tell us what fears their children had when it came to the Internet. Many of the children voiced a concern about cyber bullies. In fact, it was alarming how many responses told us threat their child had already experienced being bullied on the Internet.

Children were also fearful of adult pictures that sometimes pop up when they least expect them. They are fearful of sites they may accidentally go to that have content that is adult.

After a recent suicide by a college student, USA Today quoted Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a group that educates families about Internet safety, “…no matter how many kids hurt themselves, the Internet is here to stay. The genie is out of the bottle. This is where kids live today, period. … And as a parent you can’t simply shut it out and protect yourself from the brave new world of social media.”

Education about Internet safety is important. Protecting our kids from bullies and malicious acts of unkindness is difficult. We need to start teaching digital good citizenship early and reinforce the message often. As Jim said, “ The genie is out of the bottle.” And, it is a new world; I am just not sure about the brave part. I think it is kind of scary.

What are you doing in your home to protect your children?

Has your child ever been the victim of cyber bullies?

Let me know. We want to continue this conversation.

Brenda

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