December 18, 2008 —

In August, I wrote about the great tools available online at TheAntidrug.com to help you protect your kids online. Monitoring what your children do online is one step toward ensuring that they do not abuse drugs, including cough medicine, since so many sites have information about how to abuse cough medicines or include posts and videos of teens while high on cough medicine. But there are many more reasons to have strong policies and strategies in place at home regarding Internet safety.

Since writing my August article, I have come across a few more valuable web sites and I would like to share them with you:

CyberAngels is one of the longest-running Internet safety web sites. Launched in 1995, the CyberAngels has a large number of resources for both families and communities. The site has tips for parents, a guide about when to worry about your kids' activities online, and information about children and social networking. All articles are available in online and printable versions, so you can review all these tips with your family at any time.

DrugFree.org has an informative article about "7 Ways to Connect with Your Teen Using Technology." Tips include learning more about the instant messaging and social networking tools teens are using and decoding netspeak. For more on this, you also can visit the SafeKids web site provided by the Nebraska Attorney General for a list of the most used phrases kids and teens are using to chat online. Online dictionaries like Webopedia or NetLingo also have an extensive catalog of acronyms and their meanings.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children offers families a program called the Netsmartz Workshop. Learning tools are available for parents and guardians, educators, law enforcement, kids, and teens. The content is designed to appeal to each of these groups; for example, the NSTeens section has animated stories and real-life interviews with teens discussing who can see the information they post on their profiles, while the Parents & Guardians section contains instructive articles and important statistics to know.

ProtectKids.com is another useful web site with resources and tips for parents and kids. The site includes Rules and Tools for parents and a pledge families can print out and sign. Similarly, GetNetWise.com is a site designed for parents where you can find general tips about Internet safety and a glossary of Internet terms. About.com has a terrific guide to family computing, including a number of articles about online safety.

Finally, you can take the online Internet safety courses from CyberSmart! together with your family. These free courses teach children and teens how to conduct themselves safely and responsibly online. Topics include privacy, cyber bullying, and personal safety. The lessons have been designed for use in the classroom, but they can easily be altered for use by families in a home setting. By taking a course like those in the Cybersmart! program together, you will have another opportunity to talk with your kids about why Internet safety is so important—and you may learn something new, yourself!

In fact, the best solution I have found is sitting down with your children and teens to discuss what is and is not okay online. Parents of younger teens may want to surf the web with their children and visit some of the sites I listed above. Talk to your children about why these web sites might exist and ask them about what they already know about Internet safety. You may also want to keep the computer in a public, family location, such as the living room or the kitchen. That way, you can keep an eye on your teens while still giving them the responsibility of surfing the Internet on their own.

Most importantly, talk to your children and teens about why you feel strongly about this issue. Tell them why you need to know where they are going online, and remind them of the dangers on the Internet. You can read more about tips on Internet safety here at the Five Moms web site. If you have your own tips to share, we would love to hear your thoughts at the Five Moms Gather community.

By teaching your children and teens to behave responsibly online, you also are teaching them accountability offline. This important lesson takes us one more step closer to keeping our children safe. Furthermore, you will be teaching your children how responsible use of the Internet is a good thing that can connect friends and families over long distances, just as Five Moms has connected us all in our mission to protect our children.

I wish you all happy, healthy, and safe holidays!