August 05, 2008 —
The Internet has changed the way we all get information—including our kids. I have two nephews, 16- and 20-year-olds who live with me in California. Like many teens, they enjoy using the Internet to communicate with friends and find information about topics that interest them. While the Internet provides many great resources for learning and entertainment, there are also sites that provide inaccurate or harmful information.
Among these resources are sites where teens can go to learn more about the dangerous practice of cough medicine abuse. On these pages, teens seek out information about the experience of cough medicine abuse, and even turn to their peers for tips on how to misuse these medicines. They also are posting videos of themselves while high on cough medicine.
I recently found a great Internet safety resource, TheAntiDrug.com's E-Monitoring section, which I wanted to share with all of you. The site offers a crash course in digital technology, information about social networking sites, and stories about how kids have used technology to obtain drugs and information about drugs. TheAntiDrug.com was created by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign with the goal of providing parents with tools to help raise drug-free kids and a community for parents to share information with each other.
I think one of the most important sections is the one that talks about social networking. Teens are getting really into sites like MySpace and Facebook, so parents really need to understand these sites and how teens are using them. TheAntiDrug.com described one of the concerns about these sites:
"...there are many ways teens can communicate with friends and family online. Unfortunately, there are also crafty strangers, including drug dealers, who want to communicate with your teen. These people may initially seem to be harmless individuals, lure your teen in by gaining their trust, and then start encouraging risky behavior by sending links to pro-drug sites, notices of parties and so on. A search on MySpace.com, a social networking site used by millions of teens, turns up tens of thousands of people writing openly about marijuana."Sometimes curiosity leads our children to search for information about matters that they are uncomfortable talking about with parents or other adults. The E-monitoring overview highlights how easy it is for our children to search for drug information, including how much cough medicine to take to get high based on one's weight and height. Search engines make it easy for kids to find out where to buy "legal"drugs, how to beat a drug test, or download music or videos with pro-drug related themes.
Because of this, it is important that you keep an open dialogue with your children about safe Internet use and encourage them to ask you questions. Be the resource your kids can turn to with questions so they don't look elsewhere.
Given the amount of information (and misinformation) that is available on the Internet, it is important for us to take steps to keep our kids away from dangerous online activity. While Internet safety is an important topic to discuss with our children, it is often difficult to figure out where to start. Internet trends are constantly changing, and it can be overwhelming to try to keep up with the web sites that our children frequent.
Luckily, there are many useful resources online for parents about how to protect their children from dangerous content and interactions online. TheAntiDrug.com provides information on the different types of technologies that our children use on a regular basis—social networking sites, cell phones, and instant messaging. The web site also has a quiz to test your tech-savviness, a guide to Internet lingo, and a list of additional web resources to guide you in discussing Internet safety with your children.
I hope you find these resources useful as you talk with your kids about Internet safety. We have resources here at our site, too, to help you protect your kids at home.