Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Kidding! Your Kids Have Two Lives

Cats have nine lives and we have two.


Chill. I am not about to discuss any myths or religious suggestion of afterlife. Whether you think cats indeed have nine lives or not, you ought to realize that many people now have two lives: 'real' and 'virtual'.

I began to adopt another life
in the past decade: a virtual life.

In my virtual life, I interact with people I know, I barely know and I know nothing about. This has become the way of life for many people as well. There is nothing absolutely good or bad about having a virtual life. It is about knowing enough to manage it. My life experience so far has offered some guidance on this matter.

Kids today plunge into this 'dual-life' as soon as they are old enough to have access to the Internet. Similarly, they may interact with people they know, they barely know and they know nothing about.

Here is where the problem starts.

While the adults have wisdom that come with age, the younger Internet users need more help on Internet safety. The Internet is a very useful tool. At the same time it is also a very dangerous place. Vices such as pornography, virus infections, online predators, cyber-bullying are not uncommon.

Whenever I have conversation with parents with young or teenage children, we inevitably would talk about their children. Each time I touch on the topic of Internet usage, many would be jumping mad on how computers have cannibalized much of their children's time.

Parents today are very concerned about how the Internet might influence their children. However, few are in the position to do much more than the usual parenting stunts: they control their usage and they pry. It is understood that all these would have come with a fair bit of nagging, counseling, scolding and grounding.

Is that effective?

When I was younger, my parents had to worry about what I did out there, who I mixed with and where I went to. It all took place in the real world.

Today, parents of young children and teenagers are having a greater challenge. Besides the tactile world, they now have to worry about their children's virtual lives as well. Similarly, they have to worry about what they do, who they mix with and which sites they go to.

Many parents are not savvy with the Internet. Even if they are, they are not familiar with the popular activities engaged by the young users. Besides the issue of time management, parents ought to be more aware of the potential vices the Internet can bring. This is not to say that the young users are to be barred from using it altogether. After all, the Internet is still a very useful tool.

Total avoidance is not going to solve anything. I am sure sensible parents would not advise their kids not to ride in cars and buses so as to avoid possible road accidents. Rather, they would advise the kids to be careful while on the road. It is the same with the Internet.

Parenting skill-set in this technology age would include Internet safety. It is never too early to equip yourself with it, even though your kids are still too young to lay their fingers on the keyboard.

Here are some useful websites which promote Internet safety for kids.


NetSmartz provides online and offline learning activities for parents to facilitate discussions with their children and teens about Internet safety. It also provides resources for educators and the teens.


This is the message for the Parents from the site:

"Parents need to understand that the greatest risk our children face online is being denied access. The Internet is essential to our children's education, future careers and lives. But even the most experienced Internet user doesn't understand how children use the Internet and how to help them have a safer and more enjoyable surfing experience."

There are also resources for educators and the young Internet users in this site.


This is a website committed to keeping young Internet users safe and help mothers to parent through technology. It also opens up an online community to anyone who cares about keeping the kids safe online.

Microsoft – Protect your family – Beyond the basics

This is a very resourceful website with articles such as Online predators: Minimize the risk" and "10 things to teach kids". You may also find the video on "Teaching Your Kids To Be Safe Online" easy to follow.


This site claims that it is "one of the oldest and most enduring sites for Internet safety." Whatever it is, you might want to check out the "Online Safety Quiz (for pre-teens" and "How to Prevent Sexting".

Besides the above websites, I have also picked some other relevant articles.

Protect Your Kids Online with Free Norton OnlineFamily
2 Addons to Add Internet Parental Control to Firefox
Preschool Online Games That Are Fun For Children
Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

The above are just some suggestions. There are many more similar websites which are ready to offer useful ideas. I hope you would use such resources to help you to help your kids. If you do not have any young children, you can help to refer this article to those who have.

Internet safety is everyone's responsibility.

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