We’re very proud of our kids (and grandkids) for being so comfortable using computers and the Internet. Most of them are exposed to using computers at a very early age at home, like in my family, or if not, they are soon exposed in elementary school in kindergarten. They’re part of the generation of “native” computer users; which means they’re growing up with computers from birth. This is in stark contrast to the rest of us who are labeled “immigrant” computer users because we’ve spent at least some part of our life without them.
There are so many reasons why our youth should use computers and the Internet whenever possible. The educational resources available, both in the form of games, and the exposure to so much useful information through reference material-related websites is enormous. And this at that time in their young lives when their brains are like sponges that soak up knowledge so easily.
However, there are also dangers that lurk in unsuspected places on the Internet that we need to help them avoid. Dangers such as sites with inappropriate content, sites that harbor predators, and exposure to many forms of malware. Kids don’t have the decision making skills that adults have and are easy prey to cyber criminals and predators.
The answer isn’t to forbid them to use the Internet, it’s much too valuable a tool. What we must do is educate them and their parents on the dangers and how to use the Internet safely. US-CERT, who has a very informative article on this subject, Keeping Children Safe Online, is an excellent source for tips and techniques to protect our youngsters’ Internet use. Check it out, implement the tips and suggestions, and then you’ll be able to relax a little knowing you’ve taken the steps necessary to protect the kids.
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Remember, home computing is a blast…keep it productive and enjoyable.