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The Cutting Edge: Focus on Technology | PC Focus

New Law Protects Kids Online, but It's No Substitute for Parenting

April 24, 2000|LAWRENCE J. MAGID

Finally, the act only applies to children 12 and younger. Teenagers also are vulnerable to exploitation and dangers online and offline and, because of their purchasing power, plenty of companies are eager to get information about them.

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What's more, teens have lots of ways to get into trouble online, including revealing personal information in chat rooms or agreeing to get together with a seemingly simpatico e-mate.

The fact that COPPA was passed by the Senate and House doesn't relieve you of your responsibility to reinforce Internet safety rules in your house. Remind your children to never give out any personal information--including their name, e-mail address, phone number or school--to anyone they meet online, regardless of how nice that person may seem.

Remind them that when they're in a chat room, they're out in public and among strangers. Ask them to talk with you if they come across anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or if they want to enter a contest or register for a site.

If they do come to you with a problem, don't overreact, and if they request permission to do something fun online, be reasonable, so they know you're willing to let them do things that you've determined to be fun and safe.

And just because COPPA doesn't apply to teenagers doesn't mean you can't establish your own rules.

The FTC may not have jurisdiction over the online activities of the two teenagers in my house, but my wife and I do.

Technology reports by Lawrence J. Magid can be heard between 2 and 3 p.m. weekdays on the KNX-AM (1070) Technology Hour. He can be reached by e-mail at larry.magid@latimes.com. His Web site is at http://www.larrysworld.com.

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