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  Traveling With ChildrenFriday, July 19th, 2024  

Taking the kids on a trip into Cyberspace can be a rewarding experience for you as well as your children. Before embarking on your trip, you should know that websites collect a significant amount of personal information from children, such as the child's name, postal and email address, and favorite activities and products. This information can be collected by asking children to register with the site, join a kids' club, enter a contest or complete a questionnaire online.

The personal information collected is used to create customer lists. In some cases, these are sold to list brokers, who, in turn, rent the lists to other advertisers. (Often, this practice is not revealed. Look at a website's privacy policy for an explanation of how the site handles your personal information.) Sometimes this information is posted on the website in "guest books," members' profiles, chat rooms or on home pages hosted by a website. Posting such information may enable others to contact your child, possibly without your knowledge. It's unlikely that you'd let personal information about your child be posted on a neighborhood bulletin board; exercise the same caution with electronic bulletin boards.

Children learn to use computers quickly, but because they lack life experience, they can reveal information you might not wish to share. That's one reason children should be supervised when they venture into Cyberspace. Here are some precautions you may want to take: tips from the experts:
  • Explore the Internet with your children. It's the best way to see what they see online. There are plenty of kid-friendly sites; help your kids find them, and explain why it's best to be careful not to give out their real name and address in chat rooms, to online pen pals and on bulletin boards.

  • Consider using filters that allow you to place certain sites and subjects off limits to your child. These "parent controls" are available through your online service or through special software you can buy. Filters aren't foolproof, but they help. Some ISPs offer filters to control the amount of unsolicited e-mail you receive.

  • Have rules for going online. When your child has earned the right, issue a Cyberspace Passport and post it as a reminder of the achievement.

  • Teach your children the meaning of privacy and personal - or family - information. Encourage them to post messages only with your permission and supervision.

  • Show your child the difference between an advertisement and entertainment. A young child may not realize that an animated or cartoon character may be gathering market data or trying to sell something.
Information courtesy the US Federal Trade Commission

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