Trends & Truth Online with Mike Nappa: Internet Safety for Children

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Stanley Holditch holds the enviable title of “Product Evangelist” for McAfee Parental Control software. As such, he’s an expert on internet safety for families, so we asked him for a little advice. Care to listen in on the conversation?

 
T&TO: Thanks for taking time with us, Dr. Holditch! Let’s start off with the basics. How would you define “Child Internet Safety” for parents?
 

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 Holditch: Basically it’s about parents being comfortable with exercising the full range of their guidance in a child’s online life. The problems children can experience online mirror those they face in real life: encountering inappropriate material, being contacted by strangers wishing to do them harm, and peer issues such as bullying or problematic relationships. 
 
The pursuit of "Child Internet Safety" involves equipping parents with the tools they need to protect their children from harmful influences and content available online, and providing parents the information they need to know if their children are involved in problematic online situations. 
 
T&TO: Do kids under age 12 really need internet safety instruction?
 
Holditch: My perspective is the one I get from my 3-year-old, who learned how to operate our iPad in about 10 minutes. 
 
Computing is moving in a direction where control is far more intuitive, and therefore, more accessible to younger age sets. The Joan Ganz Cooney center did a report that showed two-thirds of 4-7 year olds have had access to an iPhone or iPod. But one only has to look at the thousands of apps designed for children even younger to know that kids are accessing these Internet-connected devices in huge numbers.
 
For parents, this heightens the need for effective tools to protect and monitor their kids online. Younger children are even more susceptible to online dangers than their older and (occasionally) wiser counterparts.
 
T&TO: How―and how often―should a parent discuss internet safety with a child?
 
Holditch: Parents should first get themselves comfortable with the subject and seek out guidance. McAfee publishes a Social Networking Guide for parents available for download. Also, there is the Internet Safety Gameplan, which can be an easy way for parents to approach some of the dangers online. It’s a series of agreements between the whole family about safe online habits, and the family is invited to discuss each agreement and why it is important.
 
T&TO: What are the most important “rules” a child under age 12 should know about internet safety?
 
Holditch: I think the rules from the offline world translate very well:
  1. Treat others how you would want to be treated.
  2. Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your parents or grandparents to see (because if they are online at all they probably will).
  3. Don’t talk to strangers (this means that a 12-year-old should not have a social networking profile and especially should not go to chat rooms).
 
For a complete guideline, please visit www.internetsafety.com/gameplan and download our free Internet Safety Gameplan. It’s a set of rules for Internet behavior that the entire family can discuss and agree to, and provides a solid framework for establishing rules, and providing accountability for following those rules to all family members.
 
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Have a pop culture question for Trends & Truths? Email it to parentlife@lifeway.com!
 
Mike Nappa is a bestselling author, a noted commentator on pop culture, and founder of the website for parents, FamilyFans.com. 

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