A generation unfamiliar to life without the Internet, the rising generation of teens is cultivating online habits that are not only risky but unknown to their parents. Seven percent of U.S. parents say they are worried about cyber bullying, even though 33 percent of teenagers report that they have been victims of bullying online, according to the Pew Research Center.
In correlation with June being named Internet Safety Month, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and Sprint have launched "an interactive campaign aimed to raise cyber safety awareness among parents and guardians," a press release announced this month.
The campaign, "Cyber Safe Futures," will "focus on key issues including cyber bullying, social networking, online privacy and mobile safety. Additionally, the campaign features youths educating parents on potential cyber dangers. Teens highlight important issues through media safety statistics."
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America has initiated CyberSafeFutures.org to help educate parents and teens about these issues. "It is our goal for every young person to have a cyber safe future," BGCA reported.
June is Internet Safety Month, the Washington Times reported, "and while a 'month' designation helps increase awareness, parents and teachers need to work together not only during the month of June, but all year long to teach children how to use the resources available online in a safe manner."
The Washington Times proposed some guidelines for teachers and parents to teach children about Internet safety. "Develop and maintain a trusting relationship with your child, know your child's online friends and if your child's behavior changes or they become withdrawn or angry, make sure it's not because of something happening online, talk to them." It is important to "teach children about using the resources on the Internet responsibly," the Times added. The article advises parents to use a pre-filtered ISP, check media storage devices and history files on a regular basis.
The "Grandmom Rule" provides a good way for teens to check for Internet safety, reported the Huffington Post. "If you would be embarrassed for your Grandmom to hear what you say or see that picture, don't post it online." In a similar vein, it said, "If a bad guy were stalking you, would you want him to know that piece of data? If not, don't post it online." Keep privacy settings and virus protection up to date, checking them at least weekly, the Huffington Post advises.
"Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware (malicious software) and other online threats," according to Stop Think Connect, a public-service campaign led by the NCSA and Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They stress using software that is secure and that updates automatically.
However, there are questions as to how much is too much. "If, a few years ago, the emphasis was on blocking children from going to inappropriate sites on the family computer, today’s technologies promise to embed Mom and Dad — and occasionally Grandma — inside every device that children are using, and gather intelligence on them wherever they go," the New York Times reported. "Parents can now use an array of tools to keep up with the digital lives of their children, raising new quandaries. Is surveillance the best way to protect children? Or should parents trust them to share if they are scared or bewildered by something online?"
"A text message application for the iPhone called textPlus allows Kyle Reed of Golden, Colo., to be copied on every text message his teenage son sends his girlfriend. 'I feel torn a little bit. It’s kind of an invasion of privacy,' he said. 'But he’s 13. I want to protect him.’ ”
Lynn Schofield Clark, however, wants her daughter, 11, to confide in her. "It's too easy to get involved in surveillance," Clark said. "That undermines our influence as parents. Kids interpret that as a lack of trust."
What parents decide to do to protect their children online will, of course, vary. But on one thing most agree. Some measure of safety precautions must be taken.
"With parents, teachers and guardians working together, we can help make sure that our children, our most valuable resource, are safe while they discover the wonderful resources available on the Internet while staying safe by keeping these safeguards in place," The Washington Times reported.