Children left to their own devices on the Internet can be a scary thought for parents. Kids are so trusting and have such a limited world view that using the web can be an overwhelming experience for them, and they are bound to make a few mistakes along the way. As parents, the most we can do is educate our children about safe and proper Internet use, and supervise them until we think they can handle it on their own. We can teach our children about chatting with strangers, posting personal information, and dealing with virtual bullying.
Another area of Internet use that we must make sure our kids are informed about is respecting intellectual property. There are endless sources of information and entertainment on the web, and so much of it is passed around and shared through social networking sites. Children also use the Internet to research their school papers or get help with their homework, and there is unlimited content for them to consider. We have to make sure that our children understand how to properly use the information they find on the web. They have to know that just because they can press a button and copy and paste doesn’t mean they should.
The world of intellectual property online is still developing as far as rules and regulations. While there are some guidelines to follow, there aren’t a significant number of laws or court cases that clearly outline for us what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to using information you find online. You should teach your child some basic tools that will help them respect intellectual property online, but encourage them to always try and use their best judgment when they are unsure of what to do.
First, teach your child about copyright. Any person who creates an original work owns the copyright to that piece (there is no need to register). Your child cannot use any copyrighted material without permission or attribution. They cannot reproduce any piece of writing or photograph, for example, on their website or profile page, unless they receive permission. In general, it is okay to repost articles and images on things like Facebook and Twitter, as long as you are referring to the original website where the information was found, such as providing a direct link. It is not okay to use anyone else’s work like it’s your own.
When your child is doing research for a paper, make sure they know how to document their sources, and that it is still necessary to do so for Internet material. Just like if they got their information from a book or newspaper, if they use it in their schoolwork they must cite their source (usually in a bibliography). Tell your child to bookmark websites where they get their information so they don’t lose track. Their school will hopefully teach them how to create citations for Internet sources. Make sure they know to do this for any piece of information that they didn’t come up with on their own.
If you talk to your child about having integrity in their online activities, you will hopefully be helping them to avoid any problems in the future regarding copyright infringement or plagiarism. They must learn that just because information is available to them, it doesn’t mean they can use it any way they want to. Words and images on websites are still the intellectual property of whoever created them, and they must be respected accordingly. Your child will benefit from your concern over their obligation to respect intellectual property, and it is a lesson they will carry with them throughout the rest of their life as an web user.
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