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With kids learning how to use a computer in elementary school these days, it can be hard to keep up with what they are doing on the internet.  A lot of times kids will know more about this technology than parents do. For this reason it can be easy for them to hide what they are doing from their parents. He who has the most knowledge has the advantage here. Parents will need to get educated on at least the safety part of the internet if they want to know what their kids are up to. One part of this is parenting itself. I’m not an expert in this area however I usually recommend to keep the family computer in a public place. This way you can keep an eye on what they are doing. Better yet, do it together.

Keeping an eye on your kids in cyberspace is like keeping an eye on your kids at the playground. You would probably keep a really close eye on them when anyone other than another kid interacts with your child. Especially a grown up that showed up to the playground alone without kids. When your child is in a chat room in cyberspace it becomes a little harder to see who is who. Child predators can hang out in these places trying to chat up your children to gain their trust. They may then try and arrange real encounters as well. Even if they never meet, the damaging influence someone can have just by chatting with them over a period of time can be detrimental. Chat rooms aren’t the only place chatting goes on. Most game sites such as webkinz and clubpenguin also include chat portions of the site. This is where kids can make friends and play the game together and chat about whatever they feel like. The identity of the other “kid” cannot be verified. Once they befriend your child, a predator can take different directions to see what they can do. They can now see if your child will send pictures or if they can meet for real. With cell phones and other devices that have digital cameras build in. it is now easier than ever for a child to take a picture and send it to someone. It may not even be of themselves, but maybe a sister, a brother, a parent, a neighbor, or someone in the school washroom.

This is real. This is around us just like any other danger you protect your child against. The best way to protect your child from online predators is to know everything they do on the internet. Seeing as this is probably not realistic, knowing what your child is capable of doing and understanding it is the most important. You can then assess how much to trust them and how many times to monitor what they have been doing. Educating your child is also a good way to protect them. Just as you would tell your child not to get in the van that says “free candy”. www.Streetsmartkidz.ca is a website to find educational material for both you and your child. To find out more about computer monitoring and other options you should be able to talk to your local computer shop. Ask them about how to see webpage history, parental controls, and possibly even firewalls that have logging built in.

In closing I would like to say that I’m not trying to terrify anyone. Computers and the internet are amazing things. As are Webkinz, Clubpenguin and other online games. Knowing and understanding these will let you properly assess the risks and put proper rules in place for you and your child. Have fun and play safe!

By: Andre Tewinkel

Andre owns ACS Computer Solutions in Courtenay, BC