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Teens & Computers

The best way to ensure your children's safety on the Internet is to be there. Of course, that is not always possible. Just as you teach your child rules about dealing with strangers outside the home, you must provide rules for communicating online.

Talk with Your Teens About What They Can and Cannot Do Online
Be reasonable and set reasonable expectations. Try to understand their needs, interests, and curiosity. Remember what it was like when you were their age.

Be Open with Your Teens and Encourage Them to Come to You if They Encounter a Problem Online
If they tell you about someone or something they encountered, your first response should not be to blame them or take away their Internet privileges. Work with them to help them avoid problems in the future, and remember - how you respond will determine whether they confide in you the next time they encounter a problem and how they learn to deal with problems on their own.

Learn Everything You Can About the Internet
Ask your teen to show you what's cool. Have them show you great places for teens and fill you in on areas that you might benefit from as well. Make "surfing the net" a family experience. Use it to plan a vacation, pick out a movie, or check out other family activities. This may be one area where you get to be the student and your kid gets to be the teacher.

Check Out Blocking, Filtering and Ratings
As you may know, there are now services that rate web sites for content as well as filtering programs and browsers that empower parents to block the types of sites they consider to be inappropriate. These programs work in different ways. Some block sites know to contain objectionable material. Some prevent users from entering certain types of information such as their name and address. Other programs keep your kids away from chat rooms or restrict their ability to send or read E-mail. Generally these programs can be configured by the parent to block only the types of sites that the parent considers to be objectionable.

Regardless of whether you use a filtering program, you should still be sure that your teen follows all of the basic rules suggested here. Filtering programs are not a substitute for good judgement or critical thinking. With or without filters, kids and their parents need to be "net savvy."

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