Navigating the growing web of online social netwoking

There is simply no way to avoid the important role that Internet-based technology will play in our children’s futures. The American school system, developed more than a century ago, is now moving (too slowly, many experts say) towards a technology-based educational paradigm, reflecting the U.S. Department of Labor’s estimate that today’s children will have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38, all requiring technological fluency. Our children have adapted to technology that wasn’t around when we were children and will likely work with technology that hasn’t yet been invented in their future professional lives.

Parents and schools need to move out of their comfort zones and embrace Internet-based technology as we march towards the high-tech world of the future.

Setting up an at-home framework

It seems that every other day parents are warned of the dangers of online predators, of the enormous role that text messaging and online networking is starting to play in our children’s lives. And yes, too much time spent online can isolate kids. When Internet time is limited, however, and when kids are well briefed on Internet safety and use, time spent online serves as a great link between children and their peers and the wider world of information. Research shows that kids who are social online are usually just as social offline. Introverted kids can use social networking sites to find their voice and gain a group of like-minded kids who share their interests. And every child benefits from healthy connections with kids around the world in online discussion forums and bilingual chat groups.

A few tips:

  • Supervise your child. Keep the computer in a shared space, such as the family kitchen or living room, so you can sneak a peek over her shoulder and check out what she’s up to.
  • Create a set limit of online time for the week. Use an egg timer if you have to.
  • Set up filtering software. Geek Squad ( can also assist families with setting up Internet filters that work for the ages of the children at home.
  • Start the conversation on online safety by logging onto with your child. Check out “The Webs,” a series of funny sitcom-like episodes that bring to light the importance of not revealing personal information online, of not trusting the profile of every new MySpace “friend” and more.
  • Encourage your kids to do some real, live social networking by inviting a new classmate over for dinner, by joining a school club or participating on a sports team.
  • Enjoy the Internet as a family
  • All kids love music. Log onto and create a CD soundtrack of the life of the special birthday person or arrange a play list of fun favorites for your next family get-together.
  • Set up a family blog. It’s a great way to stay connected with family and friends that live far away. or makes setting up a blog easier than ever. Catch up with online blogger tutorials and teach your kids how to upload photos, add music, video and more. If you’re concerned about safety, set up your blog as a password-protected site, so only select family and friends will have access.
  • Send your kids an e-card or an e-mail message. Let them know that you care-and that you’re online, too. With more and more computers in today’s classrooms, your kids are likely checking their e-mails more than you.
  • Research your family tree. Get started at or
  • n Organize your family photos online and create a slideshow with funny captions and music at

  • Help and encourage your child to research topics of interest online. Sports nut? Check out Sports Illustrated Online at Animal Lover? Visit National Geographic for Kids at Get started with your research at the kid-friendly search engine, (be aware this site doesn’t keep your kids from accessing sites you wouldn’t want them to visit.)

• From courses in everything from Podcasting to How-To to Create a Garage Band Recording Studio Workshops, the Apple Computer Store on North Michigan Avenue is the place to go for high-tech, fun learning. An outstanding variety of free workshops and fee-based courses is taught in the second-level classroom area. Take a course together-the perfect opportunity to bond with your seemingly forever-connected teen. For course listings, visit michiganavenue.

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