Online ‘Drivers’ License: Should You Need to Pass a Test to Use the Internet?

Recently, I have been brainstorming with a couple of colleagues in the online world about a program to give ‘user licenses’ to young kids in order to be able to use the Internet.  A number of issues came up.  What age would you give the test to? Kids as young as 3 and 4 are on YouTube watching Dora the Explorer videos.  How can you possibly prepare someone for the issues they might encounter in the online world.

I suppose a drivers license is the same way. It must be hard for the DMV to make a test that covers all of the possible laws and situations new drivers might encounter.  I am still considering making an Online Drivers License program to help parents train their kids to be adept at managing their reputation, personal safety and friend network online, but am struggling with the logistics.

While I wait, I wanted to post a few things that parents and adults can do to implement their own Online Drivers Ed program.

Parents should make sure their young Internet users know the importance of the following:

1) Saving Usernames and Passwords

This is so essential and obvious, but seldom done with young users.  Instead of getting locked out of your favorite site because you changed the password, help your kids not learn by child and error.  They should have a document or a piece of paper where they list the website, username and password.

2) Locking Usernames and Passwords

Do not share your passwords.  Do not share your passwords.  Stress this to your kids (a lot of them do not think this is that important).

3) Being Able to Find the Contact Button or the Report Button

Kids are pretty adept at being online, but go to a few different kinds of websites and help them quickly locate the report or contact button.  This is so if anything happens on the site they are able to report it.

4) Differences Between:

Blog, website, social network, and virtual worlds. It is important that they know the lingo.  Look it up with them if you are unsure.

5) What To Do If Something Bad Happens

See my posts on [Cyberbullying] for a detailed look at what to do.  But, in general, if something ‘bad’ happens (ie someone posts a bad picture of them, they get into a bad website, someone sends them a weird message) they need to 1-Stop (stop the action immediately and do not respond), 2-Save (do not delete the email, leave it in case you need to report it) and 3- Ask (report it to the website, get mom and dad or get a teacher).

6) Your Time Rules

If they are going to be online under your roof, get the time limits down EARLY not until they are already addicted to World of Warcraft.

7) What to Keep Private and What Not To

This varies family by family.  If you do not want your child to use their picture on social networks, they need to make an avatar or a picture of Fluffy to put up.  Are you OK putting up your last name? Your home city? Your school? Discuss.

8) Privacy Settings

[See my video on how to set privacy settings] but teaching kids about what these are and that when they sign up to websites they might not realize that the website has default settings they might not like.  Everyone should learn to check as one of the first steps on a new website.

If we were to do an online drive the Internet program these would be the kinds of things that we would discuss teach and test.  Would love your thoughts on this in the comments?

3 Responses to “Online ‘Drivers’ License: Should You Need to Pass a Test to Use the Internet?”

  1. Mimi
    August 13, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    Great article – I am struggling with my 5th grader about this very topic right now. Thanks for the great newsletter!

  2. Vanessa Van Petten
    August 16, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    thanks, of course, thanks for reading!


  1. Requiring Online ‘Drivers License’ for Internet Use « The Neighborhood Crime Map - August 14, 2009

    […] however, the idea is interesting. Vannessa Van Petten plays with the thought in a blog post at Radical Parenting. The idea arises out of a debate of over preparing children for the intricacies and dangers of the […]

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