The danger of online predatory activities is very real. Marisco (2010) believes that criminals are the first to use technology for devious purposes. Bullying, stalking, pedophilia and often times, kidnapping or child prostitution happens more each day. Marisco (2010) further notes that over the last 10 years, the prevalence of child pornography has quadrupled. Yet, more and more, Web Sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Hi- 5 are being used by children everyday. Meanwhile, parents are left in a quandary. What should parents do about these social networking Sites?
The age- old adage of trying to keep children away from something, pushes them towards that very thing, still exists. The more parents tell their kids not to create their Facebook or MySpace and Twitter profiles, the quicker- and sneakier- the kids are to do it. Does this mean that parents should stop discouraging Facebook activity? Not, necessarily. Simply put, parents must outsmart their kids!
A large part of the social networking problem is that parents go about regulating their children’s online activities, in non- productive manners. Instead of using brute force to stop a child from networking socially, online, try Petimos. According to Sandhana (2010), Petimos are set to launch later this year. What are Petimos one might ask?
Sandhana (2010) explains that a Petimos is a friendly, virtual robot that assists in monitoring children online. While Petimos are markets/targeted for children ages 7 to 10, they can work with any age group, willing to use them. The Petimos are like little stuffed animals that are embedded with microchips (Sandhana, 2010). The Petimos automatically sink online, with data that they gain from “meeting” other Petimos; this syncing is necessary if children are to accept their friends online (Sandhana, 2010). In essence then, Petimos help parents to ensure that only their children’s actual friends are, friending them online. As an added safety measure, parents receive messages, each time a friend request is made, and can block questionable requests, before they occur (Sandhana, 2010).
But, what happens if children are not willing to use Petimos or are too old to use them? Well, parents have to really be creative. Invest in programs like Net- Nanny, Safe Eyes or Cybersitter. All of these programs can be installed on computers or ad hoc networks and servers, to monitor what Web Sites children are allowed in. Should a parent have a concern about pornography, “meeting” people or simply want to record chat logs and sessions, they can do it.
If all else fails, trust that you have taught your children good lesson about safety, even on the Internet. Ask questions and model the right behaviors. We parents will be surprised how much children learn from us and will model- good or bad- the things that we do and in turn, teach them. As parents, it is our job to do what ever it takes, to make sure that our children are safe. When in doubt, cut it out- the internet that is. We do not have to be plugged in!
Marisco, E., Jr. (2010). Social networking websites: Are myspace and facebook the fingerprints of twenty- first c century? Widener Law Journal, 19(3), 967- 976.
Sandhana, L. (2010). Cuddly robots aim to make social networks child- safe. New Scientists, 206(2759), 41.