WASHINGTON – Keeping up with kids when it comes to technology can be a real challenge.
Parents can easily feel overwhelmed as they grapple with how to make sure that their children get the best experience with digital equipment at home and school, said Marsali Hancock, president of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition.
"The real challenge is that [technology] moves so quickly ... there isn't a way for us as parents to always understand what the current issues are," she said Tuesday at a Capitol Hill event organized by the Entertainment Software Association.
To ensure your child's safety, it's important to follow the three "Cs:" keep current, keep communicating and keep checking, Hancock said.
"For parents to not be involved ... produces in children this myth that they can go online, be anonymous and sneak back off," she said.
About one in seven users between the ages of 10 and 17 have received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Almost one-third of teenagers using the Internet say they have been targets of "annoying and potentially menacing online activities," such as receiving threatening messages or having an embarrassing picture posted without permission, according to a June report from Pew Internet & American Life Project.
While kids can be light-years ahead of parents when it comes to the Internet, adults need to work through any mental roadblocks, said Nancy McBride, national safety director with the exploited children center.
"It all boils down to what kind of relationship you have with your children," she said. "I've actually had parents come up to me and say 'my child will not tell me his password' ... or 'I really don't know how to use a computer.'"
Parents should get their kids to show them what they're doing in cyberspace — whether that's using a computer, game system, cellular phone or other equipment. Parents can consume media with their kids to grow more comfortable with technology and to let children know about risks from predators, as well as self-inflicted actions such as posting online photos.
"One thing we can do is impress upon our kids don't put yourself in that position, don't open that door any wider for that person who's just waiting for you," McBride said. "Kids don't think long-term ... parents do."
She also applauded innovation, such as parents creating their own MySpace pages to communicate with their kids through the social networking site.
There are also videos, books and other resources for parents and kids to learn about online safety. Web Wise Kids, an online safety resource, provides educational video games.
"Interactive simulations allow learners to experience real life situations without real life harm," said Judi Westberg-Warren, president of Web Wise Kids.
She added that it's important to reach out to kids, in addition to parents, making them their own first line of defense.
Experts at the event also applauded a Senate panel's recent approval of legislation that aims to protect children online with moves such as requiring some schools to offer age-appropriate education regarding online behavior, and creating an interagency group to find technologies and programs to help parents protect children from unwanted content.
Copyright (c) 2007 MarketWatch, Inc.