Media Contact
Rich Batten
Colorado Department of Human Services
303.866.3808
Maggie Spain
The Bawmann Group
303.320.7790

April 30, 2008

Online Safety, a 21st Century Reality and Necessity for Children

While the Internet continues to be a rapidly expanding resource, usage also comes with a great deal of risk and danger for vulnerable children. As Colorado dads are learning more about the realities of the Internet, they are also taking the time to sit down with their children and discuss online safety. Even with technological advancements in Web site blocking software and The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) legislation, a child’s best protection from online predators and other potential online dangers is their parent.

“The internet is not only a useful tool for us as parents, it’s also a great outlet for our children to express themselves creatively, connect with friends and further their own education,” said Rich Batten, fatherhood specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services. “When it comes to using the Internet, families need to find a balance that works for them. Going online together is a great and safe way for fathers to spend time with their children by playing virtual games or even helping with homework.”

Parents should be conscious of the positive and negative consequences of children using the Internet. Many families are now creating family contracts that clearly outline acceptable online behavior for children. Typical contracts include a timeline about when children may use the Internet and for how long as well as guidelines about what personal information should be shared online.

As children begin to use the Internet on their own, here are 10 online safety tips from Microsoft for fathers to remember:

1. Encourage your kids to share their Internet experiences with you. Enjoy the Internet along with your children.

2. Teach your kids to trust their instincts. If they feel nervous about anything online, they should tell you about it.

3. If your kids visit chat rooms, use instant messaging (IM) programs, online video games or other activities on the Internet that require a login name to identify themselves, help them choose that name and make sure it doesn't reveal any personal information about them.

4. Insist that your kids never give out your address, phone number or other personal information online, including where they go to school or where they like to play.

5. Teach your kids that the difference between right and wrong is the same on the Internet as it is in real life.

6. Show your kids how to respect others online. Make sure they know that rules for good behavior don't change just because they're on a computer.

7. Insist that your kids respect the property of others online. Explain that making illegal copies of other people's work—music, video games and other programs—is just like stealing it from a store.

8. Tell your kids that they should never meet online friends in person. Explain that online friends may not be who they say they are.

9. Teach your kids that not everything they read or see online is true. Encourage them to ask you if they're not sure.

10. Control your children's online activity with advanced Internet software. Parental controls can help you filter out harmful content, monitor the sites your child visits and find out what they do there.

In October 2006, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division was awarded a $10 million federal grant over five years to strengthen father/child relationships and improve parenting. Colorado is one of two locations nationwide, including Washington, D.C., to receive this federal community access grant. The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative distributes more than $1.1 million in community awards to state, community and faith based organizations to assist in providing direct services to fathers and families. Awards of up to $50,000 are distributed per program per fiscal year. For more information on a fatherhood program in your community, please visit www.coloradodads.com.