Safety on the Internet
We are all familiar with the question posed on TV and radio in years past: "It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?" This question has gone beyond its former limits of time and physical space in this era of the internet. It needs to be rephrased to reflect the reality of cyberspace and how children, teens especially, can go places you as parents may not be aware of.
Many of us have heard of several social networking web sites (like Facebook.com) because they have been in the news so frequently as a place in cyberspace where predators prowl in search of young, naive prey. But are you aware that there are many, many similar web sites out there that your teens may be visiting and posting personal information on? It's really very difficult for you as parents to monitor the sites your teens are visiting at home and it's impossible to monitor where they go on the internet when they use computers in other locations such as friends' homes or public computers in coffee houses or at the library. You can't rely on others to monitor your child's computer use when the youngster is not home. It's also true that socail netowrking sites have many good features. It can provide a useful exchange of ideas among teens and can become a positive part of their support system.
In addition, kids use their cell phone cameras to take pictures of themselves, their friends and even total strangers and download them onto these web sites that encourage the posting of personal information, photos and blogs. Of course, digital cameras can be used the same way but teens are more apt to have camera equipped cell phones. Are you aware that web logs (blogs) can be used by the legal and justice systems in investigations and trials?
What's a parent to do? There are other web sites that offer helpful advice and information about the "social networking" sites and suggestions for communicating with youngsters about online safety. Some of these are: http://crime.about.com/, http://www.safekids.com/ and http://www.netfamilynews.org/. The library has a variety of handouts and flyers that offer advice and suggestions for parents who are trying to help their kids use the internet safely. One such document is a "Family Contract for Online Safety" which is also available online at Safekids.com. Another gives tips for safer instant messaging which would apply to cell phone messaging as well as online messaging. Cyber bullying is a hot topic right now and one of the documents deals with that problem while another one discusses "phishing" scams. If you're concerned about your youngster's use of the internet and other electronic media, stop in at the library to pick up some of these handouts, check the library's own web page (http://www.hampsteadlibrary.org) for more information and links to other web sites and communicate with your kids about online safety. The library also has a number of pamphlets and print outs from a variety of web sites that may be borrowed just like books and other materials.