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Parents must stay on top of expanding technology - Metro US

Parents must stay on top of expanding technology

If you’re raising a child in today’s world, he/she needs to be computer savvy.

I called on Randy Micucci, a Windows Live products manager for both Messenger and Spaces, to shed some light on aspects of the Internet I (and likely most parents) need to know more about.

Once we get past the controversies of how young is too young to get them interested (Micucci says between five and six is good), and how much time should be spent in front of a computer screen (he believes we should treat it like television, so it’s use is limited to certain hours in the day) as opposed to good old-fashioned outdoor fun, we’re still left with this big question: How do we keep our children safe from predators and inappropriate information when they’re online?

Micucci’s overriding message was this: It’s a matter of education. Parents need to educate their children how to behave while online. “The Internet is not a thing, it’s a place,” he explains, and if you treat it thus, it’s easy to comprehend that behaviour matters.

For example, you’d never allow your child to take a photo of him/herself and post it up on the wall at the mall with a phone number attached, right? Same thing applies to the Internet. Children should never post any information which is personally identifiable, because then nothing can be traced back to them.

In applications such as Instant Messenger, it’s important for parents to check their children’s contact list. If they don’t recognize a name, they can block that person from contacting their child. Some applications also have a safety feature where parents can block people from passing on their children’s information without the child knowing.

Children, even teenagers, don’t always fully comprehend the consequences of certain actions. It’s up to parents to really get this through to them: We all need to be careful of what we write, about ourselves and others, while online. You never really know where the information is going and who may see it.

Micucci also believes in keeping computers out in the open. It’s unadvisable to allow children to have computers in their bedrooms. Though some parents may argue the children need to have privacy to do their homework, this expert says, if that’s the case, then keep the door open.

It’s not about spying or mistrusting your own children. It’s about keeping them safe from others who can’t be trusted.

Communicating with your children is key. Have a contract with them whereby they know not to go to certain sites, and to inform an adult if someone whom they don’t know ever tries to contact them.

Again, using the mall example, you’d never let your eight-year-old run around alone. Well, the same goes for the Internet.

One thing I do know about our relationship with technology: It’s going to be expanding all the time and parents have to stay on top of it.

relating@metronews.ca

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