Keep Your Child Safe on the Internet By Not Freaking Out

It is
highly, highly unlikely anyone is going to track down your young child
from a picture on the internet or a blog post to do them any harm. The
message given to mom bloggers during an internet safety talk reminded
me of when I took newborn Clover to the pediatrician. I was worried
about everything – is she going to roll her tightly swaddled body over
in her bassinet and suffocate? will one of our dogs sit on her, causing
her to suffocate? will she grow or is she going to be a little person?
- until her doctor calmly said, "Rare things happen…rarely." I have
repeated that to myself numerous times as a parent and it's been
surprisingly effective at calming me down. I went into the internet
safety talk sponsored by Leapfrog expecting to be told that the photos
of my kids would end of on some pervert's site and that anyone with
Google and a few minutes could figure out sensitive information, such
as where they go to school, from info put out on my blog. Thankfully
the message I took from the Leapfrog talk was to calm down.

Pedophiles after young kids are not likely targeting them online
because if a young child is on the computer, they generally
(hopefully!) have a parent nearby, according to internet safety expert
Larry Magid. Adolescents have more privacy, therefore are the more
likely target for a predator, but even that risk has been exaggerated a
bit. Online solicitation of adolescents is much more likely to come
from other teens than the creepy man snagged on Dateline NBC. There are
bigger online concerns, such as too much screen time, commercialism,
cyberbullying, accidental porn exposure, sexting…the list goes on.

The bigger concerns come as children get older, but as with most
things, it's best to lay the foundation for the bigger talks now, when
children (at least my children) are younger. If you see something that
bothers you, say a violent or otherwise inappropriate advertisement,
tell you kids why you are bothered by it. Magid used an example of song
lyrics, saying his children could listen to any music they wanted, but
in the car when everyone could hear it. When listening to Eminem with
his daughter, he asked her about the misogynistic lyrics and gently
pushed her somewhat acceptance of the word bitch and other
descriptions. She blew it off at the time, but years later she told him
she thought he was right. The point was that kids are listening,
even when they disagree.

Magid's quick age/computer privacy guideline looks like this:
ages 2-4 – be with them when they are on the computer
ages 4-7 – be close by, check in
ages 10-12 – managed independence
ages 12-14 – privacy concerns, make sure kids aren't oversharing, etc.

One thing that surprised me was that we should put a filtering program
on our computers now, even though Clover is only six years old. Clover gets very little computer time – and
Rocket gets zero, despite always yelling out "" or just
adding "dot com!" to the end of random sentences – and I'm always
nearby, but Magid talked about something I'd never thought about
before: accidental exposure to porn or other adult sites. Accidental
exposure tends to be more damaging and upsetting than stuff sought out
by older kids and teens, according to Magid. Everything has controls,
from game consoles to cell phone – though it may not be advertised by carriers. There are controls that
block sites or just prevent your phone number from being entered
online. However, Magid is not a fan of stealthy monitoring. He said it
should always be out in the open, so your kids know what you are
concerned about and what you're looking out for. He suggested that
parents prepare for that moment when the software detects something you
find inappropriate and he didn't mean when you find your teenage son
looking at naked women because if that comes as a shock, wake up (my point, not Magid's). He said there's a lot of violence in
porn and just stuff that not everyone thinks is appropriate to act out
as an adult and you should have a plan to discuss when you find
something you don't like, generally through a quick, casual
conversation where you explain why you think it was inappropriate. His
advice was not to overreact, which is something I find hard in almost
all situations.

The presentation from the talk can be downloaded here:


  1. I found this really interesting. I have a 7 year old who loves her computer time and is eager to branch out into internet sites we’re not totally familiar with. It was helpful to see the age ranges and suggestions as to how to monitor their internet usage based on age.

    I have to agree with the idea of accidental exposure being quite traumatic for this younger age group. Last year my daughter was really into the show “Peep” on Discovery Kids. She’s pretty internet savvy, and she took it upon herself to type “peep show” into yahoo. I’ll never forget my relief when I figured out that, thankfully, the kid’s show is the first site that pops up!

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