I like to consider myself a full citizen of the online generation. There’s little doubt that the Internet plays a huge role – a huge and beneficial role – in my life. But many’s the time when I’ve thanked my lucky stars that the Web didn’t exist when I was a teenager. Aside from being a minefield of potential social faux pas (like, say, spamming all your social contacts to grub for votes!), today’s online teens face serious issues like cyber bullying and identity theft.

I don’t have teenagers online, yet, but I do have a couple of school age boys. And, no doubt, in a couple of years, they’ll be far more capable online than their doddering parents. The trouble is, they’ll still be kids. That’s why I wanted to be a part of the Mom Central blog tour to promote NSTeens, a new Web site from the people behind NetSmartz aimed at educating teens about the potential risks and dangers that exist online and how to deal with them. (Disclosure: I will receive a $20 amazon gift card for participating in this blog tour.)


According to their Web site, “NetSmartz, a leading online resource of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, used their expertise to develop NSTeens to educate, engage and empower kids as Internet users.” It’s full of videos and comics that are, of course, aimed at teens. (Which left me feeling very, very old and very, very out of touch, being only 25 or so years too old for their target demographic!) Their comic ‘How Much Is Too Much’ illustrates the consequences of improper Internet use and shows teens that they can use their networks to empower people. Videos cover topics including social networking, cyber bullying, and offline consequences.

I found the NetSmartz site had all sorts of great resources for parents, including these safety tips, and thought I would share some of them here, too.

Web sites for children are not permitted to request personal information without a parent’s permission. Talk to children about what personal information is and why you should never give it to people online.

  • Let children show you what they can do online, and visit their favorite sites.
  • Internet accounts should be in the parent’s name with parents having the primary screen name, controlling passwords, and using blocking and/or filtering devices.
  • Children should not complete a profile for a service provider and children’s screen names should be nondescript so as not to identify that the user is a child.
  • Talk to children about what to do if they see something that makes them feel frightened, uncomfortable or confused. Show them how to turn off the monitor and emphasize that it’s not their fault if they see something upsetting. Remind children to tell a trusted adult if they see something that bothers them online.

Even as a fairly savvy and sophisticated Internet user, I found some great information on these sites. Definitely worth a few clicks!

(This post also appears on my personal blog, Postcards from the Mothership.)


Danielle Donders is the author of the popular blog Postcards from the Mothership. She graces us with her take on how technology impacts the parenting (and motherhood) process each Thursday in this space.

One Response to Helping teens make safer online choices

  1. vickiz
    Feb 19, 2009

    We can be proud, too, of the stellar Canadian efforts in this realm. The Kids’ Internet Safety Alliance (KINSA) is a respected Canadian organization that offers a range of Internet safety resources and initiatives, and has the admirable pedigree of being founded and headed by online crimefighter Paul Gillespie. A former police officer, Paul Gillespie built and lead the Child Exploitation Section of the Toronto Police Service Sex Crimes Unit to become widely acknowledged as world leaders in the field of investigation that tracks pedophiles and those who traffic and trade in child pornography. His expertise in cybercrime investigations has made him a speaker in demand and Paul has made hundreds of presentations relating to the computer facilitated sexual exploitation of children in over a dozen countries around the world. Paul is a past member of the Interpol Specialists Group on Crimes Against Children.

    In 2003, Paul sent an email to Bill Gates, the founder and Chairman of Microsoft, to solicit his support in stopping the exploitation of children on the Internet. Gates responded to Paul’s passion and together, Paul and Microsoft collaborated to create CETS – the Child Exploitation Tracking System – which is now widely regarded as the most advanced investigative tool available to worldwide law enforcement. CETS is now being used by 30 different agencies in Canada and has been deployed in Indonesia, Italy, the U.K., Brazil, Spain, Chile and Romania.

    KINSA’s recent family-focused initiatives include:

    – publication of a downloadable Internet safety comic book, created in conjunction with YTV’s hit show, Grossology (http://www.kinsa.net/Programs/Category/Program/?contentId=136)
    – launch of a series of instructional Internet safety videos (http://www.kinsa.net/Programs/Category/Program/?contentId=288)
    – launch of the Mothers Online Movement (MOM) campaign in support of victims of online exploitation.

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