If you follow my blog, then you have probably read a handful of posts of my experience growing up and being a part of the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA). Did you have Boys & Girls Club near you, which you attended as a youth? If so, what programs did you like?
Well, now that the summer is here and kids are out of the school, I can't help but reminisce about my time spent at the Boys & Girls Club. While my parents both worked, they would enroll my brothers and I in the summer programs at the local Boys and Girls Club. My brothers were in to sports, so they spent most of their time outdoors playing baseball, basketball, etc. For me, I preferred indoor activities, which includes arts and crafts, card games and swimming. I remember when I was very young and first was taking a tour of the Boys & Girls Club with my family, I saw the indoor pool, and thought how cool it was that there was a pool indoors. I had only saw pools outdoors -- that was until we started vacationing later on and swim in hotel pools. But, my first experience with an indoor pool was at our Boys & Girls Club. :-) And, oh how much fun I had during the hot summer months, learning how to swim, and then advancing on to swim games, etc.
One of the things I remember vividly was when a donation was made to the Boys & Girls Club of a large color television and Atari. Yes, you read that right -- an Atari. Guess I am old, huh? This was back in the day before X-box, Nintendo, Gameboys, Sega...and even the Internet. The Game Room at the Boys & Girls Club became the hang out spot for all the kids. We would take turns playing the few games that came with the Atari, and even had mini tournaments. :-) While at the Boys and Girls Club, it was like we had no worries (including safety, etc.) Now, flash forward 20+ years, and I am sad to see gun shootings in schools and parents afraid to leave their children. Gone are the days that teens could spend an afternoon at the mall taking in a movie and lunch. Now you have to worry about abductions and more. Sad, how our World has become.
Many of the incidences that put our children in harms way stem from the Internet. From chatting with adults posing as fellow tweens/teens, to all the harmful information out there on bomb making, drugs, etc., we as parents have to be vigilant on how and when our children use the Internet. Do you have parameters you set up for your children to use the home computer/Internet? What age did your children start using the computer? For my husband and I, we talked about the Internet and computer use while pregnant with our first daughter, Savannah. We couldn't imagine her playing with an iPad, iPhone or other mobile device until she was school aged. But, then when she arrived, and then shortly thereafter Arabella, we found so many wonderful pre-school and toddler apps that could be used with the girls, as well as streaming movies and television shows, which helped when we needed a way to calm a fussy child in public, etc.
As I look back on my early Internet/computer usage conversations with my husband, I never pictured my daughter, Savannah, at 1 yr. old to be able to turn on and navigate the iPad like she did. And, now that she is almost 3 yrs. old, she is teaching her Papa who just got an iPad to to Skype with the grandkids, how to use it. :-) Because my girls -- well, mainly Savannah right now, as Arabella is not into the computer as much as touching the buttons -- are using the computer on a daily basis, my husband and I have had to implement rules. We have set the limit of how long and when she can use the iPad -- usually 1 hr. total in a day and only when we are sitting with them. And, we have activated the parental controls, so that Savannah can't access inappropriate sites, just playing around.
Because we are in the day and age where everyone is connected to the Internet in some fashion, parents have to be overly cautious what they are letting their children access. Now, back to the Boys and Girls Club. Did you know that June is National Internet Safety Month? I didn't know this until I visited the Boys & Girls Website to see about summer happenings and saw their "Cyber Survivor Challenge Quiz, " which you can take here -- http://www.bgca.org/cybersafe/Pages/welcome.aspx.
Here is a great video as seen on the Boys & Girls Club about being Cyber Smart and protecting your child against the dangers of cyber bullying and seeing what parents think about this. With the recent incident with Michael Jackson's daughter, Paris, I read today that her cutting and depression was caused in part by the mean comments she was reading from cyber bullies leaving comments on her Facebook and Twitter pages. And, I can't tell you how many stories I have read online or seen in the news about children committing suicide due to cyber bullying. So very sad!
"Cyber Safe Futures -- Talking to your kids about online safety is a great first step."
"Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) places a primary focus on child safety and is committed to ensuring the safe futures of youth, including providing tips and tools to safely navigate an ever-expanding online world. In partnership with Sprint, BGCA is educating young people and the adults that care for them on important media safety issues and arming parents and guardians with resources needed to have an open dialogue on tough safety topics. It is our goal for every young person to have a cyber safe future."
But, what can be done to keep our children cyber safe? Head on over to the Boys & Girls Club of America Cyber Safe website to view addition brief Cyber Safe videos and to take the "Cyber Smart Challenge", to help you learn more ways you can help educate your children about proper and safe Internet usage. Like the Boys & Girls Club says, "Talking to your kids about online safety is a great first step." I know that the staff at the Boys & Girls Clubs all over America will be using the tips and tool they share with parents online, with the children that will be using their facilities this summer, in order to keep them cyber safe.
I am excited about summer and all the fun programs our Boys & Girls Club are offering, and feel even better knowing that my nieces and nephews will be safe when they use the computer room at our local Boys & Girls Club, and that their parents are now better educated about how to talk with them about cyber safety. Oh how times have changed from my early years getting excited about an Atari being donated to the Boys & Girls Club, to now having to stay up-to-date on tips and tools to help keep our children cyber safe. Make sure you are educated, and have this important talk with your children. With summer here and kids being home, you want to make sure they are not accessing things that they shouldn't online, or struggling with cyber bullying. Always remind them that they can come to you to talk about anything, including what is going on online.
Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.