- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2010

Many parents are asking themselves, “What is Web 2.0 anyway?”

The term 2.0 is used to describe interactive technologies and systems that are Internet-enabled. For instance, your child’s cell phone and PDA may have Internet capabilities. The term also encompasses social networking sites, blogs, video-sharing sites, computer gaming systems — anything that involves interactivity. Such devices and abilities are cool and offer tons of fun, but they also pose great risks.

Your child no longer has to be “bound” at a desk in front of a computer screen to have the world — and everyone in it — at his or her fingertips. Every day, children who visit interactive sites interact with strangers. And, more and more often, homespun Internet porn has been appearing everywhere from the school bus to the back seat of Mom’s minivan.

One mom recently shared with me how devastated she was to discover that the months of giggling and whispering from the back of her car weren’t caused by the typical preteen gossip. They were caused by nude and semi-nude cell phone photos being passed around freely nearly every day right under her nose. The porn shop was her car, and the porn stars were schoolchildren who were sexting one another.

This mom thought she was doing nearly everything right: She stays home in order to be present and active in her childrens lives. She drives car pool several times a week to further bond with her children and their friends. She was making all these wonderful efforts, and still the worst of the worst was happening right in her own car.

Is there anything you can do to stop the invasion of your car, your home and your family sanctuaries by perverts and predators, for crying out loud?

Yes. This is the last column in a three-part series on the very real threats posed to our children through modern technology. The first week I covered dangerous Internet content — the prevalence of pornography — and how to keep it out of your home. In week two I discussed how contact is frequently made with your children by those who seek to do them harm and gave tips to keep children from these online predators. The problems of pornography and predators are present and dangerous in Web 2.0, but this week Im focusing more on the conduct of children when they are online.

How to save your family from risky business

Here are a few tips to help steer your child clear of negative online conduct — both their own and that of others:

• Explain that there are rules that must be followed, and why. One of the key rules is that you will review the content of their Facebook pages, e-mails and gaming habits.

• Purchase only devices that come with parental controls. Visit your local tech store with your child and ask someone to show you how to use them.

• Monitor which sites your child visits. Even if you have an Internet filter, always check out the browser history.

• Learn to recognize the behavior signs that indicate that children are involved in risky behavior. There is a good description and discussion about this at www.InternetSafety101.com.

• Talk with your children about the wise use of technology, and set boundaries. Its not just content thats harming our children; its also the amount of time they are spending online. Children who spend too much time chatting online tend to move into inappropriate subject matter and use inappropriate language.

• Remind your children that anything they post or say is open for the entire world to see. There is no true privacy in texting, e-mail or social networking sites.

The many practical solutions to dangerous online content, contact and conduct are contained in the new program Internet Safety 101. Log on to www.InternetSafety101.com for the most comprehensive set of rules and tools created to keep children safe online.

If you dont keep them safe, no one will.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosaveyourfamily.com.

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