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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.

A Family Affair

As parents, one of the most comforting things we can do for our kids is to be there for them when they have to step into the unknown or do something different for the first time. Whether it's their first day at a new school, a trip to the doctor's office, or their first Little League game, they take comfort from the fact that we are there to support them and, whether it goes well or not so well, they always have the family to fall back on.

It will come as no surprise that this approach works just as well for their first steps into the digital world. Most parents with older children can remember their kids' initial interest in mom or dad's computer and their surprise - and pride - at the dexterity most children show when they get their hands on a keyboard! And those are fun days - when your child watches what you do on the computer and you explore Nick Jr or PBS Kids together.

What might come as more of a surprise is that this approach really doesn't have to change. Sure, as your kids get older they will want additional privacy and may not appreciate you looking over their shoulder whenever they are on the computer, but the family approach to technology and the continuing exploration of the World Wide Web is still the best way to set standards and help your kids stay on the right track.

One of the things you will often hear or read about when it comes to tech advice is to place a family computer in a common living space, so it's there for everyone to use and observe. This is still the preferred approach if you have kids between 3 and 15. But placing the computer in the public eye is not just about making sure they are not doing anything inappropriate. It's also about taking an interest in what everyone is doing and installing family values into their day-to-day activities.

Games and Other Tech Toys

And we are not just talking about the Internet. Video games for the family, family cell phone plans, sharing music downloads and iPods...all these technology steps taken together as a family help your child understand that they have a share in the family's interests; that they represent the family in the things that they do online and offline; and that they have an obligation to behave in a responsible and respectful manner.

If you don't think you can become a Guitar Hero yourself, then at least show an interest when you have a budding Carlos Santana in the house! Can't get the hang of that Nintendo DS your son is always playing? Get him to show you how he does it and ask about his high scores. Can't understand why your daughter spends so much time texting? Learn how to send texts yourself and make sure she texts you at least once a day as well!

An involved family will provide kids with values that they will retain deep into their teens and beyond. Values that will be particularly helpful when it comes to their first steps into the world of online social networking and video chat. As with all parent-child relationships - most of the time, just being there is enough!

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