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My son loves browsing the internet, and he's found a message board he wants to join. I'm uneasy about letting him do it, partly because he has to give his email address, and other information. What are your recommendations on children joining websites?

First things first. Somewhere on the website your child wants to join, there should be a link with a title something like "Terms Of Use" or "Privacy Policy".

In theory, this link is prominently located on the home page, but that is not necessarily the case. You may need to search to find it. In some cases, the Terms of Use (TOU)/Terms of Service (TOS) and Privacy Policy won't even appear until you start registering. Not a problem; you can start the registration process and then cancel it if you don't like the usage details.

Read through the information carefully - especially the Privacy Policy. If the site caters to children, it is required to tell you specifically what information it will collect from your child, and what purposes it will use that information for. You should read and consider this before you let your child join.

Next, you should consider running a search for the website, to find out what other people think of the website your child wants to join. If you are satisfied that the site appears to be reputable, and you are comfortable with their TOU and privacy policy, then walk through the registration process with your child, making it clear that your child is not to join other websites without your approval. As I said in another post about children and the internet you should try to make the internet a family experience.

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