Out and about
Tracy Mooney’s on a mission to help you keep your kids safe on the Internet.
Just don’t let her fancy new title—chief cyber security mom—throw you. She’s not interested in rattling off a bunch of technical terms you don’t understand or preaching to you about everything you’ve already done wrong when it comes to your kids and the Internet. Rather, this busy Naperville mom of three admits to being completely overwhelmed at times trying to get answers to the same questions you’re asking about online.
"I’m just a mom like they are, no different," she says about the moms she’s trying to reach with her safe surfing message. "I’ve just been lucky to take the experiences that I’ve had when a mistake has happened and tried to turn it into something positive."
Among those experiences: a fatal virus downloaded onto the family computer and threats sent to her oldest son via instant message.
"To me as a parent, I realized we don’t have anywhere as parents to go to tell us how to teach our kids, what we need to teach them (about online). We teach them how to behave at school and how to behave at a restaurant or how to cross the street," she says. But what experiences can parents use to teach them how to stay safe on the Internet?
As part of her new role—she’s a Realtor in everyday life—she’ll hold coffee talks with other moms and answer questions on her blog at www.mcafee.com/mom.
"I’m doing it from the perspective of a mom having gone through it," she says. "I have been blessed that my husband and I have handled most things pretty well and we’ve kept (the kids) safe."
Why you? She became involved with McAfee Inc. when she answered an ad to become one of 50 people fed a 30-day diet of spam and then blog about the experience. "Being a mom, and having kids of all those ages (17, 12 and 4) I’ve been involved in all kinds of things, you know soccer, baseball, football. You stand around and you talk to other parents and whenever something about the Internet comes up, you hear all kinds of things. I just thought as a parent it was a great way to help educate not only my friends but parents all over the place who need guidance."
The one thing you want to tell parents: "Talk to your kids early and often. Start talking to them when they are small about what’s allowed and what’s not allowed." It’s easier, she says, to talk to them when setting them up on PBSkids and Nick Jr. "As they get older, keep the conversation going. Make sure they know they shouldn’t share passwords, shouldn’t put personal information on the Internet. Just like you teach them how to behave at school you need to teach them how to behave on the Internet and that it’s no different."
She says parents need to teach their kids to stop, block and tell. Stop: Kids need to know it’s OK not to respond and to just walk away. Block: Teach kids how to block another user. Tell: Go tell an adult. "In this day and age, you never know if it’s just normal kid stuff or escalating to something much worse."
By the numbers
52 percent of teens have given out personal information online to someone they don’t know.
32 percent of teens said they cleared the browser history when they finished using the computer.
16 percent of teens have created private e-mail addresses or social networking profiles to hide what they do online.
59 percent of moms say they check their child’s browser history.
48 percent of moms admit they don’t always know what their kids do online.
44 percent of moms say they worry about their teen’s safety when they are online unsupervised.
58 percent of moms do not believe the government is doing enough to keep kids safe online.
SOURCE: McAfee Inc. survey of 1,000 U.S. moms of online teens ages 13-17 and teens ages 13-17.