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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Changing The Rules

As our kids move into the teen years they expect - and often merit - more responsibility. For many, the hormones kick-in and a feeling of teenage invincibility comes with them. They know what's best for them and they no longer need the parental guidance that was so reassuring in those tween and pre-teen years.

As far as technology and the Internet are concerned, this is both good news and bad news. We want our children to have the confidence to try new things and get the most out of the amazing technological advances of the last few years. However, we also need them to stay safe and exercise good judgment.

For many teens the biggest danger is no longer stumbling across inappropriate web sites. Rather, it's the issue of managing their own user-generated content that presents the biggest challenge. If you have a child that's about to enter those exciting but difficult years, here are the two most important lessons that we can pass on:

Teach Courtesy

Treat others as you would have them treat you. Although that time-worn adage is as old as The Bible, it applies just as well to the Internet as to any other form of interaction between individuals. Teach your teens to be courteous in their e-mail and IM conversations. Never send anything that you would deem inappropriate if you received it yourself. Never embarrass or bully anyone through e-mail, text, or IM. Above all, think! Think how your Internet and other correspondence will be perceived by friends, parents and strangers...because unfortunately in the digital world there are no secrets and no private conversations!

Think Ahead

The same applies to social networking, which will probably be your teenager's #1 online activity. Only reveal information that you want the whole world to see. Think about every photo that you post. Ask yourself: "Does it have the potential to embarrass me or my family?" "Would I want Grandma to see it?" And think ahead - "How will the same picture make me look when it comes to college or job applications?"

So, many of those rules for 9 to 12-year-olds can be relaxed but make sure new ones take their place. It's rare that a breach of the rules as a 10 year-old can result in lasting damage. That's not the case when they're teenagers!

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