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Five Tips for Raising Children to Be Respectful Cyber Citizens

Stop Cybercrime The Business Software Alliance (BSA), the foremost organization dedicated to promoting a safe and legal digital world, has launched a newly designed Web site, http://www.playitcybersafe.com, offering tips for parents and educators to use when talking with children about respect for creative works online, as well as games and activities intended to educate children about the importance of safe and responsible computing.

"We created this site with the hope of emphasizing to children, parents and teachers how to use the Internet safely, how to be good cyber citizens and the importance of respecting creative works online," said Diane Smiroldo, vice president of public affairs for BSA.

"Play It Safe in Cyber Space," BSA's curriculum, also is located on the Web site and is widely used by parents and teachers to assist in conversations about responsible cyber behavior with elementary and middle school-age children. Co-produced by Weekly Reader, the kit was first distributed last August to schools nationwide and is anticipated to reach more than seven million kids, parents and teachers by the end of the 2002-2003 school year. Parents who want to talk to their kids about cyber ethics are also encouraged to use these five tips:

* Stay close. An involved parent is the best teacher. Know what games and other software your children are enjoying and where they got them. Remind kids that even when a friend offers to copy software it may be illegal to do so. As always, if your children are unsure or have concerns, have them ask or help.

* Arm yourself with knowledge. Internet resources are available. BSA's Web site, http://www.playitcybersafe.com, offers children in grades three to eight a selection of engaging, age-appropriate activities, including the "Play It Safe in Cyber Space" curriculum, that make it fun and easy to learn more about intellectual property, copyright and the ethical and legal uses of software.

* Bring it up and define terms. Never underestimate your influence. It makes a difference when you engage kids in conversation about who owns the copyright in the games, music and software they enjoy. Define cyber-ethics terms such as "copyright," "license agreement," and "software piracy," and discuss them routinely with your children. Show them what a copyright symbol ((C)) looks like and what it means -- that the material is owned by someone else and may not be copied without permission. A glossary of terms is posted on http://www.playitcybersafe.com.

* Establish ground rules. Establish the rule -- "Don't copy." Whether at home, at school, or at a friend's house, turn respect for copyright law into family policy.

* Use positive reinforcement. Compliment children's good cyber behavior. If possible, reward them for it with extra computer time or provide another incentive.

Nearly a third of American kids say they spend more time accessing the Internet than watching TV, according to a UCLA Internet use study released in January. "Increased time spent on the computer begs the question, 'What are these kids learning?'," said Smiroldo. "The Internet can seem like a free- for-all for children -- a place without rules and this can lead to trouble and sites not recommended for children, as well as illegal behavior like downloading copyrighted works including software, music and games."

"There are many resources to help keep kids safe online," Smiroldo added. "BSA's resources were developed to help parents, teachers and children understand the process of becoming good cyber citizens."

According to an analysis of behavioral development factors conducted by Dr. Marvin Berkowitz of St. Louis University, the nine to 12 age-range is a 'very reasonable' age to target for a first time strategy of cyber ethics instruction. Experts note that this age range is also the point in development where children begin to understand abstract values such as privacy rights and can begin to evaluate the consequences of their actions.

BSA, in partnership with the Hamilton Fish Institute at the George Washington University, is the executor of the Cyber-Crime and Intellectual Property Theft Prevention and Education Project, a United States Department of Justice funded initiative to educate the public on cyber-crime and intellectual property theft. One of the key initiatives of this project is to develop educational tools designed to reach school-age children. For more information please visit http://www.playitcybersafe.com or http://www.bsa.org.

Source: Silicon Valley Biz Ink

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