Table of Contents

What is the Internet?

Useful Tools
Time Management

Search Engines
Natural Language
Sample Search


Server Filters
Proxies & Ad Filters
A Few Cautions

Finding Internet Access in Your Community

Web Resources
Science & Math

Internet Tools for Communication

In addition to the many information tools on the Internet, the readily available and easy to use communication tools helped in large part to make the Internet so popular. The scientists and researchers who first used the Internet realized that the increased communications capabilities that they had would benefit not just academics, but all sectors of society. Today, tools such as electronic mail, newsgroups, chat, and even Internet phone are providing supplemental ways to communicate with people around the world. Each tool has pros and cons which you will want to weigh before deciding which tool bests suits your purpose for communicating. For example, if you have relatives you contact frequently who live far away, you might find that sending electronic mail to each other will be much more economical than using the telephone. On the other hand, you may find you value hearing the voice of the other person and so decide that the telephone is the best instrument to use.

Responsibility in Internet Communication

  • Always have your children follow Netiquette, even if someone else doesn't.

  • Monitor what mailing lists your children are on. If nothing else, they can take up a lot of time.

  • If your children show an interest in "binary newsgroups" (where encoded pictures and sounds are posted), talk to them about how much hard drive space they can reasonably use. You may have had this discussion at another time, but have it again. These groups really eat up the space of the unwary. If possible, keep day-to-day track of how much space your child is using. You will notice impending problems before he does.

  • Sit nearby the first few times they use any communication type, for several reasons. First, make sure they know how to use the software, and are not inadvertently embarrassing themselves and you. Are they posting under their own names, or yours? Second, ensure they know the particular etiquette of the group they are entering, for most non-email communication. Make sure your child can tell the difference between an on-topic post and a spam designed to lure them to an undesirable site on the web.

  • IRC and other forms of chat should be events, not habits. There may be times when your child's favorite author will be on a specified channel to talk about his books, and the news is all over the web and the newsgroups. Usually, you will want to encourage this variety of use. If you are given enough warning, you can even plan around it. Once your child is on, monitor only if you are interested, which you just might find you are. On the other hand, "I'm getting on IRC to talk to my friends there" can become a very time-consuming habit. Still worse, chatting for the purpose only of chat can lead to real trouble, particularly in the area of trusting total strangers or breaching Netiquette.

  • Roleplaying on MUDs, MOOs, MUSHes, and MOOVs may be acceptable, but set time limits and ask lots of questions. Ask about the environment, the other people, and especially your child's character. Ask how things went sometimes when he gets off. He may be roleplaying a very different person than he is, and if you disapprove of the character, environment, or events, you may want to steer them in other directions.

  • Encourage your children to use other forms of communication. "Yes, email your pen pal across the Atlantic and the one in Mongolia, but go play with your friend down the street, and call the one across town on the phone."

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