Let me begin by setting an expectation: if you think this book will prescribe the technological Holy Grail to keeping your family safe online or a philosophical discussion on modern-day parenting practices, you’d better put it down immediately.
Instead, the aim of this book is really quite simple; it’s about providing parents, carers, or guardians ( called “parents” throughout the rest of this book) that have children using or about to use the internet, an approach to improve the chances of keeping them safe, utilizing practical steps that relate to a world we are all very familiar with—the real and physical world.
This book has been written in response to a new requirement for us as parents; it exists courtesy of our children who are part of an ever-growing society living in the modern and seemingly always connected world. Unfortunately we have no real guide or basis with which to be good parents in this new world. It’s tough enough trying to be a parent in today’s physical world.
The content of this book is designed to provide parents with a truly practical guide derived from a blend of personal and professional experience including best practice. It introduces a set of simple rules to consider, providing the best chance of parents getting it right and the best chance of making our kids safe. Research shows and experts continue to say that technology is not the solution to safety on the internet. The chief educators of our children—parents, schools, and the community—have the lead responsibility and are most effective in keeping kids safe online.
I’ve been involved in the computer software and security industry for many years, while also being a parent of two children who have used computers and internet-connected devices since their very early years. I recall an image of my son, then age three (now fourteen), sitting in front of a computer with his hand on the mouse and a massive grin on his face. I fast-forward to today: he uses a portable computer, X-Box, Nintendo PSP, and mobile phone daily—all connected to the internet and the virtual world, which has another billion or so humans connected. This is somewhat daunting, considering the billion citizens of that community are just outside on our virtual front doorstep, but I’m okay with him being part of that community because I have guided and educated him along the way in being a responsible member of that community, and I continually monitor that involvement.
Through my professional experience, I was prepared to guide my children over the past decade in a way that has kept them safe, but has also laid the groundwork for them to remain safe for the rest of their lives as citizens of the virtual world.
The truth is that I have made mistakes along the way in guiding my kids, which makes me genuinely wonder how parents who have no experience in the industry or comprehension in computers or technology stand a chance of guiding their kids. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had to make some “stuff” up along the way—I wasn’t given a handbook of parenting in the virtual world—but I have had the benefit of industry knowledge and experience combined with my parenting experience.
Regardless of whether you read this book cover to cover or just one rule, there is one thing for certain: every single child in your care will be affected by the internet during his or her lifetime. The physical world in which we all live has both good and bad, and as parents we do our very best to minimize the bad. Unfortunately the virtual world also has those good and bad elements (I’ll do my best to explain the virtual bad a bit later), and for many parents, minimizing the bad in the virtual is an insurmountable task, and it often comes down to luck.
I’m passionate about the underlying reason and basis for this book: if parents read this book, understand and digest it at least in part, and then apply that knowledge to stop even one bad act against a child, my mission is well on its way to being complete.
A finally thought to consider as you read ahead:
Today, we all live in the physical world and are simply visitors to the virtual world; very soon we will all live in both.