Focus on the Family

Overcome Your Tech-Phobia

Parents and guardians must get to know online technology if they're going to help protect children from the dangers.

courtesy of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Action Step #3 — Understand Technology Basics

According to a 2004 study by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) partner ADVO, one in five parents and guardians do not know any Internet codes, passwords, instant message handles or e-mail addresses that their children use online. Less than 5 percent of parents and guardians are familiar with the most commonly used Internet chat abbreviations, like "POS," which stands for "parent over shoulder."

Because parents and guardians may feel like their children are leaps and bounds ahead of them when it comes to technology, they often don't know how to help their children address online safety.

If you're one of those parents or guardians who does not feel confident in the technology arena, Nancy McBride, national safety director for NCMEC, recommends you take a class or read a book to learn the basics. She also suggests that you ask your children to show you what they know about the computer. Use the tutorial as a time to talk about setting some rules for Internet use.

It's also important not to assume that your child knows more than you do. Research by NCMEC for its national public service advertising campaign which talks to teen girls about the risks they can encounter online, found that children viewed themselves as super-surfers online, and were overconfident about their abilities to handle online threats.

"The reality is that your children need your guidance online, just like in the real world," said McBride. "Parents and guardians need to be as knowledgeable of today's online world as they are about the mechanics of crossing a street or driving a car."