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Monday, November 2, 2009

Internet Safety

I know another “be careful on the Internet” article. The Internet is somewhat like Las Vegas, it has beauty, glitz, shiny lights, fabulous shows and as long as you stay on the main drag in the well known places you are safe. If you wander off onto side streets, just like in any major city, you may find things you really didn’t want to see.

You can caution older kids and revoke Internet privileges if they ignore your cautions. Pre-school and primary grade children are an entirely different situation. Older kids may wander into nefarious activity intentionally; the younger ones generally get into questionable areas quite unintentionally.

This isn’t a new problem, an article in the NY Times six years ago pointed out that kids searching for something like Disney and misspelling it, ended up in places they shouldn’t have been. I point this out because these very young children seem quite adept on the computer. There are a wealth of sites that have mentally challenging games and activities for the pre-school/primary school age child. It is easy to assume they will stay on the site you initially log on to for them and then go wash the car or stick your nose in a book. These younger children need active oversight when on the computer. If for no other reason that when you come back you may find that your wall paper is gone, your home page on your browser is now adware and the child is looking curiously at unclothed people.

Watching my grandchildren on the computer I’ve noticed that an errant mouse click can provide a wealth of options. I watched a three year old inadvertently leave the Disney video he was watching and end up in my spam filter. No harm, no foul but he was in the parameter screen and if I hadn’t been actively watching I suspect that my spam filter would be less than reliable. The 5.5 year old changed the wallpaper on the computer while I watched. That was not her intent but that is what occurred.

So PLEASE, don’t just park your younger children in front of the computer and expect them to be safe. Actively watch what they are doing. The Internet has terrific resources for your child but YOU need to be actively involved, particularly with the pre-school and primary age kids.

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