OnGuardOnline.gov is a project of a dozen federal agencies and several private child safety organizations who have collaborated to create a website which “provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is particularly instrumental in maintaining and promoting the site but it works closely with those other agencies and organizations to craft messages and programs.
OnGuardOnline has just released a terrific new online safety resource called Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids about Being Online. This 54-page document is an outstanding resource for parents. The report’s advice and recommendations are spot on across the board and I particularly want to highlight the important section right at the front of the document entitled, “Talk to Your Kids.” It begins: “The best way to protect your kids online? Talk to them. Research suggests that when children want important information, most rely on their parents.” Quite right. And the NetCetra report goes on to offer the following excellent advice:
- Start early. After all, even toddlers see their parents use all kinds of devices. As soon as your child is using a computer, a cell phone or any mobile device, it’s time to talk to them about online behavior, safety, and security. As a parent, you have the opportunity to talk to your kid about what’s important before anyone else does.
- Create an honest, open environment. Kids look to their parents to help guide them. Be supportive and positive. Listening and taking their feelings into account helps keep conversation afloat. You may not have all the answers, and being honest about that can go a long way.
- Initiate conversations. Even if your kids are comfortable approaching you, don’t wait for them to start the conversation. Use everyday opportunities to talk to your kids about being online. For instance, a TV program featuring a teen online or using a cell phone can tee up a discussion about what to do—or not—in similar circumstances. News stories about internet scams or cyberbullying, for example, also can help start a conversation with kids about their experiences and your expectations.
- Communicate your values. Be upfront about your values and how they apply in an online context. Communicating your values clearly can help your kids make smarter and more thoughtful decisions when they face tricky situations.
- Be patient. Resist the urge to rush through conversations with your kids. Most kids need to hear information repeated, in small doses, for it to sink in. If you keep talking with your kids, your patience and persistence will pay off in the long run. Work hard to keep the lines of communication open, even if you learn your kid has done something online you find inappropriate.
Absolutely perfect; that’s a great model for all parents to adopt. And the report offers excellent advice on a variety of issues from there.
This is exactly the sort of thing I called for the government to start doing in my report, Parental Controls & Online Child Protection. In Sec IV.B(2) of my report (beginning on pg. 150 of Ver. 4.0), I called for public officials to get serious about online safety education and awareness building by using collaborative efforts and promotional tools to spread general safety messages. This sort of education and awareness building is the constructive alternative to regulatory efforts that are all too often favored by some policymakers and regulators.
The FTC and all the other agencies and organizations involved in creating the Net Cetera report deserve high praise for what they’ve done here. Absolutely outstanding work. Read it.