You've got mail! Info about a new Internet safety tool is on its way

October 9, 2006

Members of the AAP can expect to receive a letter this month from Microsoft Corporation promoting a novel Internet safety tool, "Windows Live OneCare Family Safety," that's available on-line for downloading at no cost to users. That announcement came today at the AAP's National Conference and Exhibition by Donald L. Shifrin, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and chair of the AAP Committee on Communications.

Oct. 9-Atlanta

-Members of the AAP can expect to receive a letter this month from Microsoft Corporation promoting a novel Internet safety tool, "Windows Live OneCare Family Safety," that’s available online for downloading at no cost to users. That announcement came today at the AAP's National Conference and Exhibition by Donald L. Shifrin, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and chair of the AAP Committee on Communications. 

In a presentation addressing safety issues associated with online activities by children, Dr. Shifrin noted that keeping their children safe is an increasingly complex challenge for parents in the face of advancing technology.

"The struggles parents have had with television, they are now facing with computers," Dr. Shifrin declared. Computers today are the technology of choice, he explained, because they provide children with interactive and social activities that were not available previously.

The number of children who have Internet access has grown tremendously. A 2003 report by the US Census Bureau showed that approximately 67% of children between 3 and 5 years old have access to the Internet through a home computer, and that this number rises with age. It’s estimated that almost 95% of adolescents between 15 and 17 years who have a computer at home are surf the World Wide Web.

Dr. Shifrin reported that alarming statistics released recently by the Pew Research Center show that parents have reason to worry about their child’s time on the Internet: Among adolescents between 15 and 17 years, 70% had stumbled onto pornographic Web sites and 64% admitted they engage in activities online that they wouldn’t want their parents to know about. Among adolescents between 14 and 18 years, 90% had communicated with people whom they did not know.

To address some of the issues parents face, Dr. Shifrin explained, Microsoft Corporation approached the AAP last year for assistance in establishing guidelines for a new online safety tool. A steering committee of Academy members and Microsoft executives was formed and developed three age-based guidelines for use with the tool. The result, Windows Live OneCare Family Safety, was released to the public last month as a free download at http://onecare.live.com/familysafety.

The Microsoft tool allows parents to create a default setting based on the age of their child. Parents can also customize their child's Internet experience based on their specific family values as they pertain to 10 categories, ranging from alcohol to weapons. The tool includes a dynamic filter that controls where the child visits on the Web by blocking inappropriate sites. Parents can manage and monitor their child’s activities from any point of Internet access-not just from the home computer.

In addition to the letter from Microsoft that’s in the mail, pediatricians will receive a brochure and a poster from the Academy that addresses Internet safety for the family. Dr. Shifrin views the poster as a tool to pediatricians open a conversation on the topic with parents.

Dr. Shifrin offered advice for parents on what they can teach their children about using the Internet safely. Never give out personal information, for one; never share passwords; and never meet, in person, a friend they only know from online conversation.

"I implore you, as pediatricians," Dr.Shifrin said, "to figure out how to make the time to ask parents two questions: 'Where is your child’s computer?' and 'Do you know how your child uses the computer?' Those two questions will provide answers you can use to springboard a discussion during which you can provide parents with information regarding the available tools that can help them keep their children safe."