This is Hank. He's five years old, from Atlanta, Georgia. He is on the computer a lot, loves to play a variety of interactive and learning games - most all from CD-ROMs. His parents will not let him access
the Web alone. They do, however, allow him to visit CyberSpacers.com!
"Hank's two older brothers, who are 10 and 12, discovered CyberSpacers. They Took the Oath, Joined the Team, and got their official caps," his
mom, Lisa explains. "And, of course, Hank wanted his own cap, too."
Hank's 14-year old sister, Dawn, whose 3.8 grade point average directly reflects her ability to use the Internet to excel with schoolwork, enjoys helping her youngest brother explore CyberSpacers and other kids' sites
that benefit Hank's ability in learning to read, write and, of course, play games. Dawn explains:
"All my brothers love action games. The older boys do the role playing stuff, and the interactive, competitive games. They even work and save
their allowances to get the games they want. But in our family, our parents
have the final approval of any games that come into our house.
"And we all love Cyberspacers' Heroes and Villains," adds Dawn. Sometimes I play the part of Tech-Whiz Tina, and my brothers take
turns playing Digital Dave, Dot Org, MC and Super-C so we can save
cyberspace and the world from DeBUG and his gang of cyber-criminals.
"We even made a 'Magic Computer' out of a huge cardboard box so we could implode into cyberspace to take on the villains. A couple of times Dad played Dr. Hacker/DeBUG - and threatened to destroy our family computer by committing cyber-crimes like hacking or stealing credit card numbers.
"That leads to family discussions about what is good behavior and what
is bad out there in cyberspace."
"It's important for kids to learn how to access the Internet," says his dad, Chuck,
a child psychologist, "without them being afraid of what might happen. We need to help youngsters develop the understanding that on the Internet, as in real life - some things are good and some stuff is not good.
"Parents cannot close their eyes to it, wish it would go away or hope that their kids can just deal with it on their own," Chuck states from experience.
"The worst thing you can do is turning your kids loose on the Internet, and
not properly preparing them for what may happen. It would be as cruel and dangerous as throwing your child out into the mean streets of the world -
and wishing them good luck on their way out the door.
"With the proper parental and teaching guidance, children can be taught to react subjectively,
to automatically protect themselves from inappropriate subject matter
on the basis of content, and their own self-esteem."
"The best thing a parent can do for their kids in the online world is to
motivate them to set their goals high," says Hank's mom, Lisa,
a retired elementary school teacher "Accomplishment is its own reward.
"Children must be taught early to understand that achieving their goals -
and not allowing anything or anyone to distract them - is one sure path
to success in life."
Although Hank's parents use software filtering systems and content blocking tools, they still monitor the time their children spend on the Internet, and weigh the results of their travels through cyberspace by keeping an eye on their grades and homework.
"Our older kids were taught around Hank's age, at 5 or 6, to start preparing to take full responsibility for their online activities," explains dad, Chuck. "It is a step by step process. Our children had to earn the privilege of using the Internet by demonstrating to us that they were able to accomplish goals -
as well as deal with whatever negative, unexpected elements that they may encounter in cyberspace.
"We use systems to block inappropriate content, but it still seeps through like toxic waste oozing up from underground. When it does show up, however, we have carefully, as a family team, taught our children
how to deal with it - how to avoid from becoming contaminated."
"We don't use foul language around our children, nor allow them to use it," says mom, Lisa. "We do not welcome adults who smoke, drink excessively or use drugs into our home. Likewise, we would not tolerate knowingly allowing our kids to be exposed to graphic pornography whether that be online or introduced by anyone into their lives."
Hank is one lucky boy. He's from a home that places the highest importance on Family Values, and ethics. Hank is already well on his way to learning how to use computers to look for the good in cyberspace, to travel the high road in his quest to accomplish great things in his life.