These days, nearly every piece of content encountered online offers the ability for readers to comment upon it, which can lead to extensive discussion and/or debate. When parents stop and think about it, this means that kids can engage in discussions with anyone online, and read comments from anyone—even if it’s not “kid-friendly” talk. As we note in Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide, it’s important to think about how to make the most of these exchanges, and keep kids safe online when engaging in them.
Worth keeping in mind: Beyond commenting functionality, there are also newsgroups and online forums that are dedicated to topics of specific interest in which the entire experience consists of the back-and-forth exchange of comments. The worry here is that it’s all too easy to get caught up in arguments with strangers, and that many of these sites are linked to social network accounts, making it easy for others to see snide remarks or find out more information about you. Kids should be careful when posting comments on blogs, social networks and websites to consider how they carry themselves, whether they’re being respectful of others, and what potential risks commenting exposes them to.
Amazingly, despite all the ways to connect and communicate we’ve covered in our Modern Parenting online articles, these selections represent just a handful of activities that connected kids can engage in online. Knowing this, it’s little wonder that, from a parent’s perspective, many may seem to be spending more time in the virtual world than the real one. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in fact, kids spend more than 7 ½ hours a day digesting some form of media, whether it’s television, music, video games or other options. And they’re masters at multitasking, able to effectively carry on various forms of communication and interaction via various devices simultaneously.
Clearly, while the appeal of Internet and online activity is strong, kids shouldn’t be given carte blanche to do whatever they want whenever they want in cyberspace. In future articles, we’ll take a closer look at the potential dangers that children may face, and provide recommendations for strategies that parents can take to mitigate them. We’ll also examine appropriate times to introduce kids to various online activities and high-tech devices – another important point to consider when helping kids prepare for life in the high-tech world.
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