Back in October I came across the article “How To Teach Kids ‘Digital Literacy’” on Forbes’ website that discussed how The School at Columbia University is using the open source tool Elgg to create private social networks that their pre-teen students can use to improve their digital literacy.
With Elgg, the students have an isolated environment where they can safely learn how to use social networks and develop an understanding of what is appropriate online behavior, without risk of exposure on the public Internet.
I think this is a model that could and should be adopted by other schools. Learning computer skills should be an integral part of any child’s education both at school and home. But when reading the Forbes article what struck me as even more important is the responsibility we have as parents to teach our kids to be good digital citizens.
Parents, Remember the Golden Rule
Cyberbullying is a problem with which many kids have to cope. Considerable attention has been devoted in the media to educating kids about what constitutes cyberbullying behavior and what can be done to protect them from it. It’s easier to picture one of our children as a cyberbully victim than it is to see the potential for the same child to become a cyberbully.
I’ve said it before in a previous blog on social networking tips for parents. Our kids have to take the Golden Rule to heart. Social networking is an extension of our face-to-face social world where we are expected to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves. It’s our parental responsibility to instill this notion in our children so they know how to behave responsibly, online and otherwise.
Whenever one of our kids writes an email, sends an instant message, or posts to a friend’s Facebook Wall, they have to ask themselves whether the message is something they would want to receive from someone else. It’s simple really when you stop to think about it, but many kids don’t.
That’s where close parental involvement in our kids’ digital lives is so important. We need to know when and how they are using the Internet. The trouble is that can be a tall order for many of us in our busy adult lives. We can’t look over our children’s shoulders all the time while they are online.
Trend Micro Titanium Can Help
Despite our best efforts, kids may still post something online that is on the borderline of what we consider to be acceptable. Sometimes people end up saying something offensive when no offensive was intended because the objectionable words were said to people who they consider to be “close” friends. Even amongst friends it’s easy to forget that a joke to one friend might be an insult to another.
To help your kid out, you can use Titanium’s Data Theft Prevention feature. Normally, Data Theft Prevention is used to prevent personal data like credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and such from accidentally being sent out over the Internet. But it is also a great tool for filtering out objectionable language before it is sent.
Here is the procedure for setting rules to block objectionable words or phrases:
- Open the Titanium control panel.
- Click on Tools.
- Click on Data Theft Prevention.
(You’ll see a screen like the one shown above.)
- Click on the New Category button to add anew entry.
- Enter something like Bad words in the Category column.
- Enter the word or phrase you want to block in the What to Protect column.
- Repeat steps 4 – 6 for all the words or phrases you want to block.
- Click OK.
After that, whenever any of the What to Protect phrases are entered into a browser or email, a notification will be given to users that the phrase they tried to enter was blocked. This protection will not only prevent your child from sending the prohibited phrases, the notifications will also help educate your children that these words are not appropriate in any situation.
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I work for Trend Micro and all opinions expressed here are my own.