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Friday, November 19, 2010

Parent's Plan

Thanks to the great folks at St. Teresa in Price Hill for having me speak last night.  During the discussion I suggested that given the incredibly difficult task of trying to keep up with all of the technologies that children are using, parents best bet is to come up with a plan.  No one could possibly know everything and no matter what you do know or do, you will never be able to account for every possible risk your child faces online.  But doing something is far better than nothing and you have to start somewhere.  An online safety plan is a good place to start.

Here is what I suggest:
  1. Take an inventory of every connected device in your home.  This will include the following:
    • Internet connected computers
    • Cell phones (smart phone or regular cell phone)
    • iPods/iPads
    • Video game consoles like PlayStation, Wii, XBox, etc.
    • Televisions (yes televisions.  Newer model TVs have internet capabilities built in)
  2.  Figure out how your children are connecting.  I'm not talking about what devices they are using, we addressed that in step 1.  I'm talking about the software and services your children use to connect.  This might include the following:
    • Facebook/MySpace
    • Twitter
    • Skype
    • Search engines
    • Chatrooms (video game chatrooms included)
    • Instant messaging (like AOL messenger)
    • Foursquare
    • etc.
  3. Learn about what protection is available for the devices, software, and services your children use to connect.  Google is a good place to start.  Pick any topic like "iPods" and perform a Google search on "iPod Parental Controls."  Most likely you'll find information on protection strategies for each device/service.  If you can't find information on Google or other search engines, try searching this blog.  Chances are I've written articles about most devices/services.
  4. Ask Mike.  I'm not kidding.  What drives this blog is parents needing information on specific devices, services, or strategies for protecting their kids.  I am always happy to answer your questions and even do some research if you need more information. 
  5. Talk to your kids.  Explain two things: the dangers associated with each device/service they connect with AND your expectations around their conduct with each service/device they connect with.  Talk about offensive content, sexual predators, cyber-bullying, and potentially illegal activities (like taking pictures of other kids and broadcasting them to a group of people).  If you don't know all the dangers associated, then learn about them. 
You don't have to be a technology expert to start down the path of protecting your kids.  Just follow the plan above and you will be miles ahead of where you would be if you did nothing.  Don't sit back and do nothing.  Don't be "that parent"...the one who resigns to "I don't know anything about computers so there is nothing I can do."  Your children deserve more and it's no one's responsibility but your own.

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