‘The talk’ revisited

It's not what you might think it’s about. It's not even a single, now-you-get-it conversation. It's an ongoing, long-term conversation families need to have about safe, constructive use of the Net and communications devices because both kids and technology keep changing. Marian Merritt, Symantec's chief online-safety evangelist, recently wrote about it, and I agree with her: "Your goal," she suggests to parents, "is to understand how your child is using technology, recognize any potential risk factors that need addressing and ensure you are the person your child can go to if something weird should happen when they are on the Web." All of that's important, especially that last point, because research shows that kids don't talk to parents about bad stuff that happens online, and we need to do everything possible to encourage them to. Merritt offers talking points for "the talk(s)" in the form of some questions you can start off with, but don't forget another good bit of advice: "Have the conversation during a quiet time when there are no time pressures," have the online computer at hand in case you want to check things out together, and "keep the chat neutral, not confrontational" so your child will continue the conversation willingly the next time!

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