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May 11, 2006

Another View On Kids And The Net

A recent "Globe and Mail article on Cyber-Safety":http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060508.gtonline08/BNStory/Technology/ for children has me concerned. Seems that parents are being advised by Lianna McDonald to use the ole' "lock down" approach to managing their children's Internet activities. As a psychotherapist and parenting expert, it has always been my advice to prepare children for life rather than protect them from it. When we use our adult power to control children we invite rebellion, deceit, sneaking and lying. Parents impose rigid rules in an attempt to regain control of their children when they feel they are losing control. Ironically, by trying to re-gain control in this manner, we actually loose it further! Many parents today do have an inferior knowledge to their children when it comes to the Net. Their fear is only further fuelled by scary media articles that magnify the rare but extreme case such things as child murderers. Perhaps better a action step for concerned parents is to share the educative process with their children. Learn together where the potential threats lie. Work collaboratively to set mutual guidelines that incorporate what you have been learning about Net safety together. Why?
Children will be more likely to willingly abide by rules they themselves helped establish. We want to win our children's co-operation, so that they adhere to the family arrangements even when we are _not_ home to supervise. My children have enjoyed learning about the "traps" of the Net, outwitting marketers who try to fool us with confusing pop-up boxes and learning about how they collect information for their databases only to market to them later. The same goes for our kids' online social world. They were intrigued to discover how people can hide their identities and now they see validating what they read and see online as a mental activity. They are becoming aware, critical thinking, problem solvers with our adult guidance. The problems of social cliques and bullying exist both online and off, and are better addressed at the foundational level; as a human issue about people and how they gain a sense of their worth and belonging. The medium these issues arise through are less the issue that the problems themselves.

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