THE INTERNET TODAY
Who could have predicted that a communications
system designed to serve scientists and the military would one day help
Aunt Sylvia uncover a blue-ribbon cake recipe or help you track down your
favorite high-school classmate?
The Internet is an unprecedented gateway to a vast wealth of knowledge
and information, and its uses are virtually unlimited. The World Wide
Web, although still young, is deeply ingrained in our culture and everyday
lives. Its a source of news, facts, and figures; a communication
tool that allows millions of us to connect with each other every second
of every day; a way to bank, invest, and shop; and an educational and
entertainment medium that allows people from all walks of life to learn
about the world and have fun doing it.
A Resource for Children
Especially promising are the marvelous advantages
that the Internet offers children, including access to educational materials,
publications, online friendships, pen pals, subject-matter experts, and
information on hobbies, games, and sports. Theres no question that
many of todays kids benefit enormously from online accessoften
in ways different from their parents use of it.
A Darker Side
As indispensable as it is in todays society,
however, the Internet is also a reflection of society, good and bad. The
easy access to information that makes the Web so special is also at the
root of parental and community concerns about childrens exposure
to inappropriate materials and experiences. Real-world threats like hate
speech, religious cults, harassment, and stalking exist in cyberspace.
Particularly alarming for many parents are pornography
and sexual predatorsissues that led to the preparation of Youth,
Pornography, and the Internet,
the National Academies report on which NetSafeKids.org is based.
It’s easy for a parent to think, “Maybe I’ll just keep
my kids offline entirely.” This might be the best guarantee for
safety, but is it a practical solution? Children can access the Internet
from a number of places outside of the home. In addition, the Internet
is such a helpful educational resource that denying children access to
it could put them at a disadvantage as they prepare for their own future.
Knowledge Is Power
Whoever said Ignorance is bliss probably
never raised a child. Parents, ever vigilant, sometimes feel helpless
when it comes to guiding their childrens Internet use. Yes, its
likely that your kids are more Internet-savvy than you, but that shouldnt
interfere with your parenting goals. Dont be intimidated by the
apparent complexity of the Web; its easier to understand than you
think. Nevertheless, to prevent problems and still help kids get the most
out of the Web, you must understand
the threats, learn how unacceptable
materials and dangerous people travel on the Web, and plan a strategy
to protect your children.