The Internet, many say, is like an elephant. It never forgets.
The difference between life before and after the Internet is, above all else, personal. We make mistakes; we move on. Maybe we were the uncool, pimply faced kid in high school; we graduate and no one remembers. A collapsed marriage, a job rejection, the college not-of-our-choice … in the past we could put these things behind us. The Internet creates an audit trail which makes that nearly impossible. Keeping kids safe on the Internet is aiming at a moving target. The rise of social media combined with mobile devices makes this current incarnation of the Internet very different than the one of just a few years ago. Today’s kids are cutting their teeth on iPads and cell phones. More than 90% of American tweens and teens are now online. Facebook is a world-wide phenomenon with over 500 million active users; 7.5 million US kids under the age of thirteen use it. Virtual worlds, social gaming, and online collaboration are their playthings today, and possibly their income tomorrow.
Summer brings along some bad Internet behavior mostly because kids have more un-chaperoned time on the web than during the school year. The gadgets that entertain and inform them are the same gadgets that can land them hot water.
On June 23rd in New York City, we’re holding an Internet Safety Summit to help raise awareness about the newest internet risks and solutions. You get to read about it first and check out the some fresh ideas.
Parry Aftab, Founder of Wired Teens and WiredKidz, likes to say that the best tool you have to protect yourself on the Internet is the one between your ears. Her TeenAngel volunteers research issues and then offer advice and resources – everything from bullying to scams.
WhatsWhat is a new social network for kids only. They use a combination of human and computer moderation, along with some exciting biometric photo recognition to identify a the child and keep non children away. Visit the Parents Tip page http://prc.whatswhat.me/.
Ohanarama, another social site, launches this week. The vision is that Ohanarama is a place for extended family from grandparents on down, to join in the fun. The site creators call the extended family the “original social network”. Dr. James Bower’s Whyville is one of the early virtual worlds that was introduced to make science fun and interactive for kids. Now, in addition, it’s a place where kids create the games they play, personalize adventures, and do it in a safe environment.We think these sites are on to something. Creating a fun, safe place is a good alternative to “blocking” and curtailing web use.
Tools for keeping safe have become easier to use and less intrusive. McAfee Family Protection is a suite of tools that suggest age appropriate settings for different aged kids, filtering, search integration and reporting. It offers a turnkey solution for a level of protection. In addition the website http://us.mcafee.com/virusInfo/default.asp?id=parents offers tons of advice for parents and keeps them up to the minute on virus and malware. And school raises its own set of Internet Safety challenges. Intel created a design for a new class of PC to offer students a safe engaging experience. Lenovo is the first major PC manufacturer to implement the design. Intel will address how they’ve taken years of ethnographic research to build a school –ready PC. Targeting grades 1- 8, the laptops are rugged, small, lightweight with long battery life. They have special software to keep kids engaged and safe. http://newsroom.intel.com/community/intel_newsroom/blog/2011/03/09/lenovo-and-intel-extend-digital-learning-with-new-lenovo-classmate-pc Making mistakes on the Internet has never been easier, but the same is true for protecting yourself. Stick to the fun sites, add a little common sense and good tools and you’ll stamp out Internet regret.
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