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Moms learn online tools at Microsoft

Teach kids safety, not fear, experts say

REDMOND, Wash. – Despite a sobering presentation about sexting and a Twitter promo from one of the world’s most popular tweeters, the main message of the day at the first Wired Moms summit on Friday was pretty low tech: talk to your kids.

Technology is not the problem and it shouldn’t be banned from your house out of fear, emphasized Parry Aftab, founder of WiredSafety.org. Instead, children need to be taught how to use this vast resource that is changing all the time.

“It has to be there like looking both ways when you cross the street,” Aftab said.

Here are some of the tips Aftab and others shared with the moms from around the Northwest who gathered at the conference on the Microsoft campus:

Teach your kids what personal information is and why they shouldn’t share it online.

Use the parental controls you have to limit what your younger children can see on the Web. Ask your older kids if they want you to set up controls so they don’t accidentally see things they don’t want to see.

Work together with other parents to keep an eye on kids.

Talk to your kids about sharing pictures and information online and by way of cell phones and how damaging this can be to them now and in the future. Be honest about sexting and cyberbullying.

Become an expert on social media so you can teach your kids how to communicate safely.

“We need to be the one that our kids come to as a resource,” said Nansen Malin, a mother of four from Seaview, Wash., who has more than 150,000 followers on Twitter.

Aftab, who quieted all the chatter in the room with her presentation about cyberbullying and sexting – kids texting naked pictures of themselves and other teens – said Wired Moms is being organized to be more than just an Internet safety organization.

The organizers hope to become a place for moms to share information about the technology and parenting, and they plan to have more conferences both in person like the one on Friday and online.

Wired Moms is a grassroots organization trying to create, as one organizer calls it, an army of wired moms.

“We need to join forces or we’re losing this war,” Aftab said.

Carri Christianson, who quit her job at Microsoft when she was pregnant with 7-year-old triplets, said she came to the conference looking for information and left with a determination to get more involved in Wired Moms.

The Renton, Wash., mom said people should remember that despite all things that scare parents about the Internet, technology is incredible and banning it is not the way to protect your children.

“It’s not the technology; it’s the people,” Christianson said.

Aftab agreed, pointing out that very few children and teens are abducted or abused by adults who meet them online, but cyberbullying is happens to most teens and preteens in the United States.

“There’s 67 ways to cyberbully just on a cell phone,” said Kerri Jablonski of Seattle, sharing her takeaway message from the conference.

Microsoft Corp. hosted the conference, provided lunch and a company executive spoke about Microsoft’s efforts to give parents tools to keep themselves and their children safe, but the group is not otherwise affiliated with the corporation.

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