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Five Minutes with Bob Kessinger

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Bob Kessinger has written books on parenting, including Surfing Among the Cyber Sharks: A Parent’s Guide to Protecting Children and Teens from Online Risk.  

He talks about his experiences:

What is the one thing you think parents should know about your work? 
Our book was written because parents need to know that there are a wide variety of predators seeking to do harm to their children online everyday. It is not only cyberbullying or sexual predation, but the Internet and the multitude of ways to connect to it have magnified and accelerated the social and physical risks to children beyond what my generation has known.

What are your feelings about the role of the father in child development? 
The role of a father is very important, especially in sharing those life experiences that can teach and provide guidance to their children.

What is the best thing dads can do in the raising of their children? 
Dads need to stay involved and aware of what their children are doing as they grow. Continue to do this in their online world just at you would in their real world. Just as you might coach their youth soccer team and learn the lingo of the sport, so too should you become one of their online “friends” and learn to communicate using their language and technology tools. Embrace this as a learning experience.

What is the biggest error dads can make in raising their children? 
In my opinion, one of the biggest errors a dad can make is to assume that their children are getting all the support they need, either at home or in school. It may be easy to drop off at dance lessons or let mom handle the family scheduling or let teachers be the only ones to educate your kids. But without getting fully involved in many of these activities, you can deprive yourself of real opportunities to bond and interact with your kids.

Is there one practical tip you’d suggest to dads?
I would tell dads to realize that mistakes will happen and learn from them. Your children will make mistakes, and dads will make mistakes. Try not to compound them and turn them into positive learning lessons. It is one of the things that we try to emphasize at CyberPatrol with regard to teaching Internet safety. A child  may do something wrong online, but that does not automatically mean that the Internet should be banished.  

It’s been said that the greatest regret aging men have is that they didn’t spend more time with their kids. How do you feel about that statement?
I think that is a very unfortunate statement, but it is understandable given that in years past, men were primary breadwinners and women were typically caregivers. But that said, being a dad, I do have a lot of time with my own kids and I am grateful for that.  Knowing how great being a dad can be, I am sure that I will have a regret or two as well. But if any dad feels that this statement might apply to them someday, stop and make the most of your time now with your children.

Every generation worries that their kids aren’t strong enough to handle the real world. Do you feel kids need to be “toughened up” by experiencing rough times?Or conversely, do you think kids need to be smothered with love to give them storehouse of good feelings with which to deal with the inevitable challenges of life in the real world?
I don’t believe that either of these statements are mutually exclusive. In fact, they are used in conjunction every day. Even though many adults may feel that kids are coddled today, I would argue that there are plenty of real world “tough” issues that kids today face, that my generation never did. Clearly, the entire issue of Cyber Sharks never existed for us.

As parents we need to know when to smother with love and when to let our kids find their way in the world.  It’s funny, but there is a great parallel with what I do professionally with CyberPatrol. First and foremost, we encourage kids to explore the Internet with all its dangers.  We offer tools and advice for parents to help keep their kids safe online. Our book, Surfing Among the Cyber Sharks, offers insight into the dangers that kids face online and practical advice on how parents can manage those risks.

Has anyone inspired you to be a better father? If yes, who?
I feel very lucky. My own father inspires me every day to be a better dad.  

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