Saturday, April 26, 2008

Safety Saturdays (#10) - Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online and Offline


Today's cellphones have become mini computers with the ability to search the internet, send e-mails, and send picture, video and text messages. Parents and children should discuss appropriate cellphone use for their family. You may want to check with your service provider to find out what options are available to disable internet and/or text messaging capabilities.

Text messaging allows users to send short messages to one another. This may replace emailing, chat rooms, and instant messaging for children who do not want their parent's to access this information on the family computer. Many children are being bullied through text messaging. If your child receives a harassing text, tell them not to respond, save the message, and tell a trusted adult. Remind them to never send a text with words that they would not use in person.

Remember once children send text, video, or pictures from their phone, they lose control. It can easily be forwarded to another phone or to the internet. Sending provocative pictures or videos of themselves or engaging in conversations of a sexual nature can put them at risk for exploitation.

Safety tips to discuss with your children:
  • Never post your cellphone number online.
  • Never respond to harassing text. Save the message and tell a trusted adult.
  • Never send a text that says something that they would not say in person.
  • Never send provocative pictures or videos of themselves.
  • Remember once a text, picture, or video is sent, they lose control and cannot take it back.
Where can you get more information?
  • NetSmartz411 is parents' and guardians' premier, online resource for answering questions about Internet safety, computers, and the Web. You can search their library for information or ask the experts a question. Click on the library tab and then the cellphones/iPods category for several articles about risks, safety, and monitoring cellphones.
  • NetSmartz Workshop provides on- and offline learning activities for parents to facilitate discussions with their children and teens about Internet safety, including cyberbullying.
  • Wall Street Journal article, April 23, 2008, on cellphone tools that can filter uncensored web and chat.

Next week's post will provide information about CHAT LINGO, the foreign language of acronyms for texting, chats, and instant messaging. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is a particular topic that you would like to see covered in a future post. (If you are not familiar with blogging, you can still leave a comment below. Just click the anonymous button and type your comment in the text box provided.) Click on the "Safety Saturdays" label to the left to get more safety tips.

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