Blogs or Bust

I'm a blogger. I'm proud of it. And there are countless millions of others out there who are too. So how do we say no to our kids when they want to have their own blog? A recent series of articles highlights some of the pitfalls of allowing youngsters to blog. The nature of blogs is that they don't do well when it comes to privacy. They open the door to threatening posts, loss of anonymity, and countless other potential abuses. Like anything internet related, kids need to be careful and parents watchful when it comes to blogs. Set some rules and guidelines, keep an eye on the content, and talk to them constantly about what they are doing. If your kids want to set up a blog, help them set it up with you as the moderator. They can then prepare posts that can't be published until you've had a chance to review them first. It's up to us as parents to set boundaries, and as bloggers to set an example!


Cell Phones and False Security

That the internet is fraught with hidden dangers is pretty much accepted these days. There's a growing awareness that we all need to be more careful about how, where and when our kids have access to the cyber world. I'm not saying we should shut it down, just that we need to be more careful and aware. Well the same thing goes for cell phones. Like computers and the web, users of this technology are becoming younger and younger. Many parents provide these devises as a kind of safety device. You can reach your kids and they can reach you whenever it is necessary or urgent. If they get into any trouble or danger they can quickly call for help. At least that's the theory. But my sense is that relying on cell phones falls very short of these expectations.

First it creates a false sense of security. Because they are wireless, can you every really know where your child is calling from? If they want to hide the truth, there's little to stop them from doing so. The second problem is that kids who rely on instant and constant communication have difficulty developing a sense of independence and self-reliance. They don't need to make their own decisions or find solutions to their own problems, all they need to do is call home to mom.

The biggest problem however is the whole notion of privacy. Like the internet, cell phones are becoming more prevalent in our daily lives and in the lives of our kids. Unfortunately, familiarity breeds complacency. With web-enabled phones equipped with cameras and video and text ability we need to be aware of the same dangers that apply to using a computer. Here's a case in point. And this story is another point to consider.

We need to educate our kids about safe and secure phone use. We need to carefully monitor their use. But most of all, we need to be aware.


The message is getting through

Check out this great article about kids safety on-line. This is one of a series of resources along the same topic. It's nice to see that the "main stream" media is starting to pay attention to these issues.


Random Networks

A while back my desktop went belly up. Despite my best efforts and very robust security software programs, something very nasty got into my system. I won't point any fingers, but I highly recommend you ask your spouse to avoid logging into their notoriously porous work e-mail servers from home! Anyway, efforts to fix the problem only made it worse until I had no choice but to re-configure the whole system. In the meantime however, I couldn't afford any downtime, so we purchased a new system. The old box was purged of it's evil spirits and sat in the corner of my office until I reluctantly agreed to turn it over to the kids. It did make sense. Instead of cluttering my sparkling new system with kids games and other cute things, the old system could house all that stuff. And it also meant I could move the whole thing into the corner of the family room where a watchful eye could be kept on the activity. Convinced of the merits, I dutifully hooked up the wireless network to provide access to the carefully chosen child friendly portals and boosted the parental controls and filters to the max. And then reality came crashing in. It turns out that my neighborhood is a hotbed of wireless network activity. When I fired up the kids computer I got access to seven local networks. And I don't mean that the system recognized their presence, I mean I got access to them. Sure some of them carefully hid the identity of the owners, but with access to the network it wouldn't take much for some unscrupulous prowler to hack in to all those personal files. I was shocked to say the least. It's a lesson we all need to learn. Don't just protect your self and your computer. Think about your neighbors too!.


Let Our Kids Play

I just heard that my good friend Chris has launched a Playborhood site in Canada! I commented previously about the folks over at this great site when he brought it to my attention a while ago. I guess the message hit home with him as much as it did with me.

Where is the Presidential Leadership

I was having a conversation this morning with a colleague about politics. As somebody who advocates for keeping our kids safe on-line, that lead me wonder about what sort of real leadership there is out there for this important issue. Where do the presidential hopefuls stand? I certainly don't have the time to do an in depth analysis, but if you do and want to provide us with insight, please feel free to make a post. What I do have time for is to do a quick scan of the top candidates to see what they have to say on the issue of protecting our kids online from a variety of dangers and negative influences. I'll update you on what I learn and to start the process, I'll begin with yesterday's New Hampshire primary winners. Sadly, neither Hillary Clinton, the Democrat nor John McCain, the Republican had much to say on the topic. At least not as a key platform issue.

Here's what Hillary's official web site says: "Among the issues she has fought for and will make a priority as president are: protecting children against violence and sexual content in the media and studying the impact of electronic media on children's cognitive, social and physical development."

And over at John's official site, the issue is addressed like this....

That's right, not a word. How disappointing that a leading contender has nothing to say about protecting kids online.

As parents we need to stand up and let political candidates know that we care - that we not only need their support, but we need their leadership to make the changes necessary to protect our kids.


Boundaries in the Sand

I usually try not to post more than once a day, but I came across this interesting post made by Brian Baker, CEO of Hopscotch Technology. Mr Baker is participating in a day long session at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas called the Sandbox Summit which is looking at kids and technology. Of course, there's a heavy focus on toys and gadgets, but the interesting thing is that this particular session is also about how these things influence kids behavior. Brian makes some interesting observations about setting boundaries for our kids and making sure the technology doesn't take over. Read his great post here.

Fun for the Brain

If you've been a regular on this blog you'll know that one of my favorite things to do is surf around to find new and interesting sites that are both fun for kids and keep us grown ups happy. You'd be amazed at how hard it is to strike the right balance. So when I come across something good, I like to pass it along. Today, I found a site called FunBrain. While it is a little heavy on the advertising, it does have a lot of good stuff that is mostly educational. It also has resources for teachers and parents as well as for the kids. It's one of those web sites that you can share with your kids - and that's what the web should be all about.


Fresh Air instead of Refresh Screen

This blog is all about keeping our kids safe online. But did you ever stop to wonder why this is even a problem we need to worry about. Why are the kids spending so much time on a computer in the first place? Why aren't they outside playing in the park? Well, the folks at Playborhood have decided to do something about it. They've dedicated their time and effort to promoting the notion that kids should be kids. Here's just a little of what the founder, Mike Lanza, has to say on the topic:

"When I think about my kids’ (boys, 3 and soon-to-be-born) futures, I’m terrified. I’m not terrified that they will have inferior educations or live in an unsafe world. I’m terrified that they won’t have very much fun. To illustrate my point, take a moment to think of the ten best memories of your childhood before high school. Chances are, if you’re over 30, most of these memories involve playing outside your house with friends, not scheduled events with adults around."

I for one support Mike and his playmates entirely.


Amazon dot come on already....

I just finished reading a great book recommended by my friends over at Kinsa and wanted to pass it along to my faithful readers here. Julian Sher has penned a number of great books exploring behind the scenes details of law and order topics. The latest is called "One Child at a Time" and is a look at the global fight to combat on-line child pornography. It's a great read and you can find out more here: One Child at a Time: The Global Fight to Rescue Children from Online Predators

Which brings me to my point... normally, I'd post this link to Amazon and encourage you to snap up a copy for yourself. But for some strange reason, this book isn't available yet on the U.S. site. You can get it on Amazon's Canadian site here. I'm not sure why this is the case, but come on already, Amazon. Books like this are important tools in helping us all to understand how to keep our kids safe and what the law is doing about it. We need all the help we can get.