Spending time online and being safe

Do you dream about work? I do. Too much, actually. I dreamt about it last night. Lately, I’ve been thinking (and dreaming) a lot about Internet safety.

My first memories of connecting to the Internet are from 1995 or 1996, when we first got AOL. We had dial-up internet and saw this screen each time we connected, which took around 2 minutes.


I remember talking to people in chat rooms and lying about my age. I was 12 and told people I was 15 because they didn’t have chat rooms for tweens! It was easy for private chats to turn inappropriate quickly and I don’t remember my parents ever really talking to me about being safe online. It probably happened, but I also think it probably went in one ear and out the other.

I’ve been making friends (and meeting up with people online) for as long as I can remember. I remember meeting some guy I met online in the food court at the local mall.  We met and I was weirded out…so I made some excuse, scooted away and blocked him online. I sure as hell didn’t tell my parents what I was doing (surely they would judge me!), but I did make sure to always tell a friend all the details (screen name, phone number, physical details).  In hind sight, it was stupid. But I was just a high school kid.

As I’ve continued to grow up, making friends online has been a constant. I’ve made great friends through blogs I’ve had, I’ve made weird friends through twitter and I’ve dated online, through a variety of sites including match.com and even craigslist. Meeting people online is common now. But when is it dangerous?

I am not a parent, but this is a big question mark for me. How much are teens talking about this? What really is relevant to share with parents? How can we arm teens with the right information to help them make smart decisions?

My company, Cox Communications, launched the Take Charge! program nearly 11 years ago and it’s a fantastic start. I’ve been spending time with the most recent survey Cox did on Internet safety and am surprised by some of the results. Cyber bullying was not on my radar nearly 20 years ago. But, I’ve witnessed it. The amount of time people are spending online is something I can definitely relate to.

My littlest sister is a sophomore in college and every time we get to hang out, her phone is connected to her hand. I can relate, my phone is sometimes still connected to my hand, too. When I’m all into social media and can’t stop watching twitter, David will tell me, “PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY.”


If teens spend 6 hours a day online, how many hours do I spend online? My entire workday is spent online and then I come home and play on Pinterest and read my blog roll. There is too much screen time in my life, but it’s an easy default. That’s probably an easy 10 hour day of being online.

YIKES. That’s scary. Do I want to spend the majority of my life in front of a screen? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But, this is a modern reality. And it’s not just an issue for 30 year olds but for teens and little kiddo-s. Check out these cuties:


Two cutie-pies! On the right is Leo, my friend Michele’s son. Captivated by screens! My nephew is 2 years old and LOVES his iPad. I don’t even have an iPad…

I asked some friends on Facebook, “what is your #1 concern with your kids when they are online?” Here’s what I heard:

  • My 6 yr old navigates the computer well and is learning how to spell, so he can type simple things in the search. There is a site called playhub that he plays games on. I guess he misspelled it and ended up on pornhub. I was mortified!
  • Only one?!?! Right now (with a 2 and 4 year old) I have two. The first is just the ease with which all of these things can suck their time away from being outside, being creative, etc. The second is if snapchat is already rampant amongst those of a poor decision making age I can’t imagine what will exist for that same demographic when our kids are old enough to have mobile devices.
  • My 8 year old loves to google random things. I’m terrified he’ll google the “wrong” thing.
  • I block the web browser on my 5 and 8 year old’s kindles…they will thank me later.
  • Others reaching out to them…they are 11 and 13.
  • I’m concerned about my 8 year old accessing inappropriate YouTube videos-  it’s so easy to navigate from fun cat videos to not-so-nice images, networking games that allow for interactions with others ie. potential predators and just general disassociation with reality (we have time limits, etc)
  • My 5 year old clicking on random things that will either download a virus or charge me eight million dollars.
  • 4 & 6 year olds: I have controls on to prevent purchases, but it’s too easy for them to end up on random websites even from paid game apps on my kindle. My son keeps ending up on sites to buy a car. I’m glad his exposure has been limited to the features on the new Honda Odyssey, but the possibilities freak me out.
  •  Concern about others being able to contact my 9 and 11 year olds without my knowledge.

Knowing the things I got into at the beginning of the Internet, I can’t imagine parenting a teen in this day and age. God bless you, parents and guardians. Please continue to check www.cox.com/takecharge as I work to update the site and continue to build relevant resources for parents.

What is your biggest concern about being safe online – kids or no kids?

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