Retirement Guide for Teachers

By Alan Haskvitz, national motivational speaker

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Teaching kids to drive the net


One of the great uncertainties of parenting in this digital age is the importance and possible dangers of MySpace, Second Life, Facebook, and YouTube and other such sites to children and young adults. Because of the vast differences in these sites and what they offer I am going to restrict myself to providing some common sense ideas to helping understand this problem there needs to be a review of just what MySpace is about and what causes concerns. Second Life is exciting and inviting places where students can create an alter ego that inhabit an imaginary world in 3D. You Tube has videos of an incredible variety of which some are adult only. The latter two have different online concerns and security. There is also the Facebook where is more like MySpace but with yet another set of security concerns for a parent. It is highly recommended that you spend time researching all of these. As most of the Internet and publications in general, the vast majority are excellent and a great source of information and enjoyment. However, there are others that might be objectionable and even dangerous. It is very important that you decide now which ones these could be and act accordingly. Don’t throw away the Internet and what it can provide out of fear and ignorance.


First, there are as many as a quarter million individuals signing up daily for MySpace and even though the rules stipulate you must be at least 14 years of age there really is no way to check for accuracy. However, MySpace does try to monitor this and removes thousands of sites they find that are questionable for one reason or another. It is estimated that there are over 50 million teenagers online at just that one site so this is a huge task.

Parents do have control over their children’s site if they know there is a site. If a parent does find their underage child has a space they can email the company at with the information including the web address and member’s name and the company has stated that it will be removed. If the youth is over 14 the parent can only do what good parents have always done and that is communicate with their child. If a parent wants to remove the posting of an older teenager they must get the username and password and delete the material from within the account setting section. Before this is done it is highly recommended that the parent understand that everything on MySpace is not evil. On the other hand many times it opens up the age-old question between a right to privacy and the fact that the adolescent might be communicating with strangers. Strangers may be carrying on a conversation for many months to obtain the information they want or to overcome initial resistance to a future meeting. They have the time and they are counting on a busy parent not to have it.

A parent must monitor a child’s Internet activities. Using the computers history setting is one form. I also recommend checking the cookies to see where they have been as many sites place these on a computer. Use the find feature and type in “cookies” to reveal where users have been. Most youngsters have no idea about cookies and they exist even if the memory or history is destroyed. If you find the cookies section is empty you have to take a more active roll in monitoring. That includes keeping the computer to a more public place such as the living room or kitchen. The computer should never be located where a youth can use it without people constantly walking by.

MySpace has been quoted as indicating that profiles of those from 14 to 16 are closed. This essentially means that the youth must okay any viewer of his or her site. This is a valuable tool and the parent should check to see who is allowed to post on the site. Again, MySpace is a place where socialization takes place. Is it better than at someone else’s home without supervision? Most definitely. Is it better than at your home when you are present? Certainly not.

MySpace is being active, too. They have software that is said to remove thousands of improper postings every week and have hired a safety expert. Unfortunately, the fact that the software apparently found such items is even more evidence of the need for a proactive parent.

Hate Groups

It must be strongly understood that although there has been a great deal of concern about sexual predators there is also a very grave danger of children learning about hate groups and getting involved in such brainwashing sites. The majority of children are too wary to succumb to meeting strangers, but being told that certain people or religions are evil can result in a lifetime of hate. Plotting attacks with a friend is a terrorist threat. Having a child read racist, anti-Semitic, and other types of articles without an adult can cause a young mind to be turned. Here is a list of hate sites that have been posted. You need to make sure your child does not visit them without your supervision.

Active Hate Groups according to the SPL

Hate on the Internet

Help Identify Propaganda

Tips for Parents

Here are some other important methods to help safeguard your child. Ask to see their site and to be taught what is on it, who uses it and why. In this way you are asking to be taught and this sharing is better than taking a policing action. Also, have your child look at the sites of their friends to make sure there isn’t any personal information there.

Next, make certain that names, address and phone numbers are never posed. Using password-protected information is the key. Everything that is posted is capable of being seen by teachers, administrators, and schoolmates. I have personally scene comments about my teaching posted on sites and confronted the surprised students about what they hoped to accomplish by such actions. Something youths feel that MySpace is really there space and not open to the general public. In a few years their views might change and what they have posted been printed out and kept much to their chagrin.

To find your child’s space you can type in their name at MySpace. However, most use a nickname and so you may have to search for that or the names of their friends. You should also check the name of their school and the names of their friends. If you do find one of your child’s friends there you can backtrack to your child’s space by using the friend’s list at that site if a comment has been posted.

It is always best to ask the youth and remember that there can be more than one MySpace account for each person.

Lessons to teach

A youth who knows a parent is checking their site is less likely to make a rash decision and can even be a help to others whose parents aren’t aware of possible concerns. Regardless, all children need to be taught Internet safety and the first lesson is that nothing is private.

The second lesson is to keep all personal information off the Internet.

Thirdly, giving information to a friend means that it can be spread around the world without any control. One unguarded computer at a friend’s house is an invitation to steal all the data on that unit.

Next, a parent should approve posting personal photos. Tell your child that there is no need to show strangers what you look like and friends already know. Photos of your house can be easily traced to, yep, your house. Likewise, photos of your school can be used to find out where and when they are away from adult supervision.

Never meeting a stranger goes without saying, but to some children those people they chat with online are not strangers. Sometimes a child might do this out of spite, so it is important that the parent know who is being contacted and why.

A child should be told that any threat made over the Internet harassment and be obliged to be reported to the authorities. In fact, such threats may even be considered a terrorist threat.

Finally, make sure that there is no money being paid for any service and that the child is taught that Social Security numbers and credit card numbers are private.


MySpace need not be considered evil. It is the pool hall of its day. There are both good and bad elements there and so trust and oversight are what is needed. An unsupervised child on the Internet is potential problem. Parents need be vigilant, but they also must tread that difficult line between privacy and responsibility.

This is a listing of some sites that might be of value. And, there are other sites that offer similar features such as the Face Book so it pays to stay involved with your child because you aren’t going to find it easy to stay ahead of them in this age of technology.

Acronyms used for Internet communication such as those on MySpace

Bob Rankin’s article on blocking MySpace at home

And his other advise about dealing with MySpace

FBI Guide to Internet Safety

Large safety Internet group

MySpace child safety expert hired,1759,1948704,00.asp

To remove your child’s profile from MySpace

MySpace Safety Tips for Parents