Keeping her safe online

"Musing the kidzui web browserusing the kidzui web browserommy, may I use the computer to play my online games?"

That is a question I hear on a daily basis, from my five year old. I didn't use a computer until I was about fourteen years old and even then, I was just playing games from a 5-1/4" floppy disc. I hadn't heard of the internet and I didn't actually use it until I went to college in 1997. I started school in the spring, while my housemates had already been there for a semester. I remember going to the computer lab with them and watching as they "logged on" to the "world wide web". They had email accounts and chatted with other people online at a place called "The Park". This was all new to me at age eighteen. I was intrigued and I knew then that the internet was something very powerful.

Fast forward to the year 2011 and how far technology has advanced. Something like over 77% of the US population alone is "connected". We've virtually turned this very large world into a neighborhood. Mind boggling.

Our family is very much technologically savvy. Twelve years ago, my husband and I met by way of the internet and we have really embraced its power ever since. So, now, when our eldest daughter asks if she can use the computer, we are happy to guide her. After all, technology is going to be a huge part of her future.

Although she can't read or write well yet, she is still able to understand how to "click" her way around websites. When I saw how easily she understood how to navigate the web, I quickly researched options for ways of letting her have a safe and friendly experience as she takes her first step into the online world.

I opted to install and use the KidZui internet browser for kids. It's easy enough for her to use and safe enough (with many parental controls) to let her play her games without me hovering over her shoulder. She is to the point now where she can start up the computer and launch the KidZui browser on her own (after she's asked permission, of course). A report is emailed to me after each time she logs in, so I can see what games she has played or videos she has watched. Only approved content will load in the browser.

I'm pretty stoked that we have the KidZui browser as an option. We still have a ways to go in the internet etiquette department but we've definitely got a good start. Quite honestly, I'm not too worried about it. The web is integrated into our lives and we will make sure that our kids are smart about it when they get to the age where they surf without our guidance.

I do strongly believe that parents and caregivers should be very active in teaching and monitoring their kids online usage. They need us to teach them about the rules of the internet just like they need taught good manners or how to safely cross the street. A great place to start learning about online safety is Yahoo! Safely.

Earlier this month, on Safer Internet Day (Feb. 8) my fellow Yahoo! Mother Board members and I sent out messages via Twitter about how we keep our kids safe online. I leave you with some of our internet safety "Tweets":

@c2cmom For Safer Internet Day, I'm chatting w/ kiddo abt good strong passwords & not sharing them.#yahoosafely http://yhoo. it/GoSafely
@StacyLibby For Safer Internet Day today, I will set a good example for my child by leaving my iPhone in my purse while driving. #yahoosafely
@jenwag57 For Safer Internet Day today I will talk to my family about being careful with their Facebook profiles #yahoosafely

@michelespring Decide who sees what update on FB. Perhaps, not everything needs to be transparent. #yahoosafely
@yodelingmamas For Safer Internet Day today I will adjust my privacy settings for family photos that I share online. #yahoosafely http://
@CrunchyGreenMom My children know that if I look at their phone messages I am not "invading their privacy". I am being a mom and KNOWING my kids #yahoosafely

*Amy writes about parenting and products at ParentSphere.