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How to protect your kids' privacy online

Anna Weggel of our Public Insight team tapped into the Public Insight Network for some stories of how parents  help protect their kids' privacy online.  Here's what she heard back:

I have a 12-year-old daughter. We regularly talk about what information is safe to share and also what is appropriate to share. We talk about online etiquette as well. And then we monitor her email accounts and her web browsing history. She is aware that we monitor as well. Nothing is meant to be a secret on either side. We have found that open communication and clear expectations are the critical component. She knows to report anything unusual and trusts that our intention is to protect her, not stifle her. -Kris Donnelly, Minneapolis, MN

 We keep the computer in the kitchen area, which is the most commonly occupied room in the house; that way we can keep a close eye on what they are doing online at all times. We also don't grant them administrative privileges on the computer so they cannot install anything, and password protect our adult accounts so they cannot use those. -Jeff Ingalls, Rochester, MN

 My children are between 8 and 11 years, so my tactics are fairly blunt. No social networks (facebook, myspace). As they grow older, am happy to allow the networks with privacy controls and parental oversight. Currently, anything requiring a username and password has to be approved by mom or dad and the login info available to the parents. And most of all we keep the family computer in the main area of the house. Our 10 year old recently requested to have a blog. And we fully support the increased writing and computer skills this will develop. Of course, we required the blog be by invitation only and that as parents we always have access to the content. Lastly, we limit the amount of time per day they can spend on screens (tv, computer, gaming) outside of school work.. –Annette, Draper, UT  

 I protect my children by giving them freedom of choice. I talk to them and help them to develop common sense, but I never limit what they can see or do, online or in books or films. The more they know about the world, the safer they'll be in the long run. –Dr. Angela Sorby, Milwaukee, WI 

 I have two daughters one of them is a 5 years old and already using the web for child friendly programs (PBS). I am always monitoring her access and stay alert to what shows on the screen. However I am concerned as she continues to grow and not been able to monitor what may come through the screen when I am not there. –Eduardo Barrera, St. Paul, MN  

 We talk frequently about sites that they visit. We work to educate them about how to use sites appropriately and how, when and where to share information. We let them use Facebook, but go through the privacy settings together so that they understand and are comfortable on what info they choose to share. We also talk about who they are adding as friends. We have chosen to not let them use Twitter, because it is so public and we are concerned about term consequences of having info out there (college admission, jobs, etc). Education and an ongoing dialog is the best way to protect them. Using blocking software is not that effective and kids can easily get around it, much better to educate them, set clear boundaries and remove the computer for a time if those boundaries abused. My kids are 14 and 12. –April Kennedy, Minneapolis, MN

 Sit next to here at the kitchen table when she is online. –Jim Stock, MN

 We limit computer use to a half hour per day. We do not allow them to have a Facebook or MySpace account. They do have their own e-mail accounts. We make sure we are in the house when they are on line. We monitor their choices of on-line activities. - James Armstrong, Winona, MN

I know their passwords and I routinely go into their accounts and see what they are doing, including what websites they visit, games they play, which songs they download from iTunes, and which movies from Netflix. I have them show me their MySpace and Facebook profiles too. I also remind them that the internet is not private and they must be careful what they do there. I have tried various automatic parental controls, and they are getting better. Once another girl put my daughter's MySpace up with a line about "For a good time, call…" only in more specific language. My daughter was 12 years old and devastated. I called the girl's mother and the message disappeared. The damage seems to have faded. She is 13 now. - Lisa Hoesing, Santa Cruz, CA 

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