Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dateline NBC has Internet safety tips

Chris Hansen, anchor of the NBC Dateline Series "To Catch a Predator" concludes his book on the series (my blog entry here, date March 17) with a chapter giving reasonable online safety tips for parents.

The msnbc dateline link for the tips (or "Internet Safety Kit") is here. For the famed and controversial television series the link is here.

One of the more interesting tips is that he recommends that parents limit a given kid's activities on the computer to two hours a day. This should be enough time for socializing, looking up legitimate entertainment, and most of all for homework. He also recommends that the computer be located in a central area of the home and not in a kid's home. And he suggests a frank talk with kids about not giving out family information (address, land phone number, and even school attended) on social networking site profiles. There have also been recent concerns that, although facebook and more recently other social networking profiles (especially Myspace) can be whitelisted to a list of "friends" (and shut out of the search engines), these "friends" tend to reproduce private information so even whitelisted postings don't stay private.

The Internet, at least for a minor or someone not established into an adult career, should not be viewed as a "free entry" ticket to "fame" (like the name of the 1980 movie and song).

Of course, the Internet can be a tremendous asset in legitimate schoolwork, and teachers have a quandary in assigning work where it is needed. One solution is for teachers to use carefully structured lessons with the Internet in classrooms (rather than handouts) and try to set a good example for how to learn from the Internet at home.