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Teaching kids to use internet and social networks safely PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

Teaching kids to use the Internet properly at an early age will help them perform better at school and later in life when they enter the workforce.

It’s all about training them to use such tools as search engines, social networking sites, e-mail and blogs more effectively, while staying safe in the process.

“There are many new technologies that can help kids learn to make better use of their time online while protecting them from dangerous content,” says John Rodkin, General Manager of Search at InfoSpace, a developer of Internet metasearch products.

There are several things to teach kids to give them a solid foundation when using the Internet:

—Basic safety: Always monitor children’s computer usage. Be aware of sites they visit and the amount of time spent there. Consider using software programs that restrict access to violent, pornographic and other inappropriate Web sites.

—Safe surfing, e-mailing and chatting: Just as you wouldn’t let your children hang out in inappropriate places until late at night, so should you teach kids only to visit safe Web sites of which you approve. The same goes for e-mail and chat rooms. When teaching kids not to talk to strangers, extend this idea to e-mail and online chatting. Make sure they understand people aren’t always who they claim to be online and never to meet anybody in person who they first met online.

—Posting and tweeting carefully: Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites can be great ways for kids to socialize with friends online, but they first need to be taught basic rules. Instruct them not to share personal information since what they post or tweet about becomes public information.

—Searching smarter: Kids should learn to use a search engine, as it will help in everything from researching schoolwork to finding a job. Train them to make smarter use of their time to find what they need faster. Take them to search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Ask to see how they work. Then show them they don’t need to choose one over the other and they can find results from all of them at once by using a metasearch site which delivers results from all the leading search engines. It also delivers real-time search results from Twitter, so they can learn what people are saying about topics they’re researching. Users can choose to filter search results or block Twitter results from appearing in searches if they have concerns about content.

—Getting trusted results: Just because you’ve taught your child to properly use the Web, doesn’t mean all that information is trustworthy. When kids begin doing research for school assignments, teach them to evaluate the credibility of sites. Coach them to check each site’s source and question it: Did a trusted organization or company publish it? Is the author or blogger really a reputable expert?

“Mastering the Internet and using social networking sites safely are skills that will help kids throughout their school years and careers,” emphasizes Rodkin. “It doesn’t have to be a challenging and dangerous place if you teach them to follow the rules.”