Parents who want to help their children navigate an online social minefield need to educate and communicate, not berate, restrict or panic, Dr Boyd said. ''The way forward is to have open conversations, to really have a dialogue of trust … if you engage in surveillance and break that trust, you'll teach them not to talk to you.''
In her work for the Internet Safety Technical Task Force of US state attorneys-general in 2008, Dr Boyd found the children most at risk of harm online - through cyber bullying or contact with predators - were the ones most at risk offline. Youth workers and educators should be trained to look for signs online that a teen was in trouble, Dr Boyd said, rather than assume the internet was the cause.
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