http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/290437

Parents urged to take part in their kids' cyber world activities Special

Posted Apr 11, 2010 by Khalid Magram
Gaming and surfing the Web can help parents connect with their kids, experts say. The cyber world has long become an integral part of kids but it still intimidates many parents.
Parents playing with children.
Parents playing with children.
File
An ongoing online poll shows 21 percent of parents are uncomfortable using features like parental controls because they fear their children will think they don’t trust them enough to make good decisions for themselves.
"Parents should ask themselves why they feel intimidated. If it is because of lack of knowledge then the solution is to educate themselves, about the positives and the pitfalls of the cyber world," said Dr Bruce Ballon, head of the adolescent clinical education service at CAMH.
He encourages parents to embrace kids’ digital world activities to ease the anxiety. It can include actually watching a session, he said.
This can allow families to discuss how these activities can be balanced within a healthy lifestyle and provide parents some bonding time with their kids similar to other kids’ day-to-day activities such as soccer - making the experience fun for both the parent and child.
"The key thing here is the cyber world is huge, tackling the issue involves helping their children develop good self-esteem, family and societal values," Ballon said.
To help parents with such issues, Microsoft has recently launched a unique initiative, tailored especially for parents. GetGameSmart, is a one-stop Internet portal with resources on the most current information about parental controls tools, expert tips and incentives for parents.
The families’ incentive to put media use rules, guidelines into effect at home and encourages parents to join their kids cyber world activities such as surfing the World Wide Web and playing video games that are accordance to their values.
"It is a very exciting time to be a kid right now," said Gavin Thompson, director of Microsoft cooperate citizenship, "But also critical period for being a parent (of young children).
Microsoft is committed in providing parents and caregivers tools to identify simple steps to help ensure their kids are using video games and media in ways that are safer, healthier and more balanced, Thompson added.
Another family tools on the site is in a way of a pact that parents can download. By signing, the pact parent and a child commit to each other to abide to the rules. When a child falls out a wagon, a pact acts as a refresher and comes to play as personalized guide.
Majority of parents are constantly concerned and worried about their children’s cyber world activities. It is imperative for parents and caregivers to have an open dialogue with kids so to catch any warning signs or red flags in their kids’ online behaviour.
“The major red flags are when the child starts to have a significant decrease in his or her functioning in some part of their life i.e. failing school, physically weak, relationship difficulties, unable to attend to responsibilities," Ballon said.