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Teens and Computer Safety
Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens and Computer Safety
My 11 year old is wanting an email account and I'm wondering if any providers are safer than others in filtering out spam and phishing emails.
Hi - I'd really appreciate advice on the following issue, which is how to protect my daughter from potential sexual predators while she surfs the net and goes on sites like Skype. Last evening, after a really boring Sunday at home all alone (by choice, after rejecting the few ideas we had of things to do), our daughter was spending time on Skype, as she often does. Until now, her conversations have been limited entirely to her best girlfriends, who are also in 8th grade. We have two computers networked together, in my office (she does not have a computer in her room) and I came into the office and began to check my email and noticed (thanks to an icon on my toolbar) that she was on Skype chatting with someone whose name I didn't recognize. Asking her about it, she said, oh it's just some nice person (she assumed a female) who shared her interest in movies. They were comparing notes about favorite films and in the course of so doing, my daughter revealed that she's 14 and lives in California, and the other person shared that ''she'' was 27, living in Thailand, doing ''volunteer work.'' She asked my daughter if she had a camera (!!!) and then my daughter asked me if we had a Webcam in our new computer. I quickly insisted that she stop the conversation and she resisted that and continued chatting for another 15 minutes or so, until I really forced her to leave the computer and get to bed (by now, almost 10:30 pm on a school night). I then blocked the name of this unknown person from her Skype messages but am new to Skype and am not sure whether or not it worked. I'll check later today. Our kid has always and only been around trustworthy adults and is trusting, naive and vulnerable. She's also a stubborn, increasingly independent teenager who doesn't want to be given rules or have her freedoms curtailed. The red flags were, to me, immediately obvious. So I'd really like some guidance navigating these new waters. I don't really know how to set parental controls in all of the places she might visit; I don't know how to impress upon her the cunning of all of the nuts worldwide who are surfing for young vulnerable teenage girls (or boys for that matter) online. I've been looking for some clear guidelines online and have checked the Digest archives for a past discussion on this, but neither has offered the concrete help I'm hoping to find. Your insights into how to protect our daughter while still allowing her a lot of freedom on the internet would be invaluable. Many thanks.
We established only simple, basic guidelines - no addresses, no phone numbers, no meetings. And for a long time we had an old New Yorker cartoon taped by the computer -- a big old Labrador at a desk with a computer, labeled: On the internet, no one knows you are a dog. If you don't know someone, for all you know they are a dog. All you have are words on a screen or pictures anyone can post.
But you will not always be on hand to monitor your child's actions, and there is no system that is fool-proof. Even if there were, there is always access to other people's computers to worry about. The conversation you reported does not necessarily mean she was dealing with a predator. It could have been an actual 27 year-old lady who doesn't have a good sense of how sensitive it is to deal with teenagers.
What you want is for your daughter to be clear on when a conversation should start the alarm bells ringing. She doesn't need for you to block this lady. All she learns from that is that you are ''mean.'' What she needs is an internal ''three strikes'' guideline for dealing with strangers. The question about a camera is strike one.
An important point to remember: the kids who get into the kind of desperate, scary trouble that makes headlines don't have someone reach into the computer screen and grab them. Instead they agree to pose for pictures they shouldn't, or to go meet strangers, and the like. If your kid is clear on issues like these, the computer isn't going to take her anywhere dangerous. also a mom
I only have one thing to say about your limit settings - teens need them - this is one example of where parents need to be VERY clear and simply do what's right - take her off the site ALTOGETHER - you would do the same thing if she was being propositioned in a public place - in other words, if she was been harrassed in the park - wouldn't you go pick her up and put her in the car and drive away? Hope you tighten the reins a little - although the experience will have taught you both a lesson about how easy this happens. Maddie
As my kids get more savvy using the internet I am curious about how other parents
are keeping their kids safe. Do you monitor your kids computer usage? Do you
control their internet access? if so, how? Do you allow your kids to shop online at
places like iTunes?
Also, can you recommend a cyber safety seminar that can help me better
understand the issues and how to address them?
technically clueless mom
2) We had a talk with our kids about internet safety; we want them to be partners in intelligent use. They understand why they should:
a) never use their email address to sign up for anything, including petitions, website sign-ins, etc. b) never open up email attachments c) never respond to email from someone they don't know d) never go to a chat room e) never forward chain letter emails or other internet garbage from friends. (They know how to check about.urbanlegends.com & snopes.com for the multiple internet hoaxes and they have become adept at debunking the junk their friends send them)
3) If they want iTunes or other internet purchases, they ask me and I sign in with my account and deduct it from their allowance.
We tried a software filter/timer. My 10 year old then put together a hilarious PowerPoint presentation entitled ''why we should remove Content Barrier X from the computer'' which was very persuasive. The program prevented access to innocuous sites, blocked friends' emails and failed to correctly time usage.
Rather than being the ''internet police'', I am focusing on partnering with the kids in becoming savvy about internet use and abuse. This includes thinking about the choices their friends make in terms of websites and emails. They've let me know about a 10 year old who was corresponding with a stranger, an 11 year old visiting porn sites, a 13 year old forwarding malicious gossip, etc.
At the same time, I can't always rely on their good sense - I ''trust, but verify''. I occasionally check the ''history'' on the browser to see that they're not on inappropriate websites, and check their email inboxes (and trash) just to be sure they're not getting/sending to/from strangers.
I've talked to my 16 year old niece and gotten some good advice from her as well. So far my kids are not asking to do a MySpace account, but the 13 year old does have friends who have one. You might check out previous BPN postings about this issue and internet safety in general. http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/teens/computer.html Natasha B.
My 12 1/2 year old, 7th grade daughter has suddenly become very interested in communicating with her friends via email. What rules, guidelines, limits, warnings, check-ups do you recommend to keep her safe?
They all have free email addresses through aol. Now they want to get Netscape Instant Messenger. What is available along with these that I need to know about? One mother told me that if you get your own email address, you are then able to get into internet sites limited to over-18. What is Chat Room Navigation? What else should I worry about?
It's terrific to have a place like this to come to ask this type of questions. Thanks in advance. Barbara
In my opinion, one of the biggest "dangers" of internet use by teens is
that they can become addicted to online "chatting." Picture a teen's
typical use of the telephone multiplied many times as several friends can
be online at once, chatting back and forth. I would suggest setting time
limits from the outset--e.g., no more than 30 minutes per day and only
after all homework is completed. I have found my own child online aftter
midnight, when I thought she was asleep, still chatting with several of her
My kids are older than yours, so this may not apply to you, but I give
my 2 boys (14 & 17) a lot of freedom about what they do on the web.
For example, after a discussion on this list a few months ago, I told
them that I'd heard from other parents that teenage boys look at
pornography, it's pretty normal, and that I am not going to forbid it.
I gave them my views - that I think it might give them the wrong idea
about what real women are like, and that I think it's mostly pretty
demeaning to women. I told them I do not want to ever want to come
across it accidentally on the computer, just as I don't want to find
Playboys lying around the house. But as long as they do it privately,
I won't say anything about it. This has worked out really well, and
they keep their own "Bookmarks" separate from mine. Incidentally every
once in a while I secretly check on what they are doing by looking at
their bookmarks and history. It's about 80% sports, games, and music,
20% porno sites (pretty much run-of-the-mill T&A type stuff).
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