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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.

Online vs. Offline

There is no shortage of stories in the local and national news about the threats posed by technology, and in particular, the Internet. So much so that it's natural for caring parents to wonder whether the negative aspects associated with digital technology completely outweigh the positive.

A lot of these reports position the Internet as an out-of-control jungle, as if the Internet itself had special powers to corrupt and harm. But as with all media - whether it's TV, radio, the movies, or magazines - it's not the medium itself that we have to be wary of, it's the content.

There is nothing wrong with the TV, as long as your 7 year-old is watching SpongeBob and not CSI Miami. There's nothing wrong with your 13 year-old going to the movies, as long as it's Pirates of the Caribbean and not Hangover 2. Similarly, there's nothing wrong with your kids jumping on the Internet, as long as they know where they can and can't go.

Some things never change

Extending this concept, many of the social problems that have been linked to digital media were around long before the Internet became widely available. Schoolyard bullying pre-dates cyberbullying; there was sexually inappropriate behavior among teens - yes, even when you were young! - long before sexting became an unfortunate addition to the English language.

What digital technology and the Internet have contributed is convenience and a false sense of security. We can now communicate faster - sometimes faster that our brains can tell us not to communicate - and at any time of the day or night. We can also communicate with people whether they want to hear from us or not!

But at the end of the day, it's the people behind the communications that are responsible for what's transmitted and the good or bad intentions that go with it. The Internet, the computer, and any other digital devices used for the purposes of communication are really just the messenger.

So determining appropriate online behavior doesn't require a whole new set of rules. If you don't want your child to see inappropriate images or content on the Internet, tell him where he can and can't go. You brought your daughter up to be polite and courteous at home and at school, why should it be any different when she's online? If your kids don't pass around half-naked pictures of themselves on the school bus, why would they post them on the Web?

Want to know how to behave online? Think offline!

Comment by geekbabe, posted 6/7/2011, 7:58 AM:

Excellent advice! treating the internet as you would any other place makes great sense! keeping parental rules consistent online and off gives kids the safety of having clear boundaries and the freedom to relax, explore all the web can offer from within those boundaries.
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