, November 12, 1998 — Eager six-year-olds surfed the Net in the computer lab at the community college in Bellevue, Wash. Wednesday night, while anxious parents and grandparents quizzed software experts from Microsoft and other companies about how to keep kids safe online.
The Family Internet Fair was a joint effort by Microsoft, AT & T, Bellevue Community College, Edmark Software, Headbone Interactive, The King County Library System, Net Nanny and the Washington Education Association. The event was part of America Links Up, a nationwide campaign to encourage and support Internet education events in communities across the country.
Events such as the Family Internet Fair are a great “grassroots” way to reach out to people concerned about what they might find when they first venture online, said Debby Fry Wilson of the MSNBC staff. Fry Wilson gave up her Wednesday night to help people who don’t know much about the Internet understand how to get connected. “Most of the questions are basic,” said Fry Wilson. “How do you get online? How do you find things once you get there?”
These may be simple matters for Net veterans, but they are not for people who are uncomfortable about venturing online for the first time. “I came to find out how to keep my grandkids safe when they use my computer,” said one man, who proceeded to quiz software experts from several companies.
Terry Sutherland of the MSN Member Policy Team walked people through the process of customizing sites such as MSN Investor and MSN Expedia. “They want to know about travel information, and the basics of navigation in our software,” said Sutherland.
“I’m happy to give up a little free time if it helps new Internet users understand the basics of security and safety online,” said Seattle Police Detective Leanne Shirey. Shirey conducts Internet basics and safety training classes for parents and law enforcement personnel. She is conducting a comprehensive 8-hour class on November 14th at Safeco Insurance in Seattle. For more information and/or how to register, call (206) 684-8651.
“The number one thing I want to tell parents is, don’t just close your eyes and ignore where your kids are going online,” said Shirey. “And the biggest tip I give to parents is to put the computer in the center of the home, and turn the monitor so you can always see what your child is up to.”