Every year the internet is growing as a common element in the daily lives of more families around the world. Children are beginning to use the internet at a younger age for many reasons such as social networking, school, and gaming. This growing trend has created welcome discussion amongst adults who understand the potential risks of leaving decisions on online privacy and safety in the hands of minors who may not understand the implications of these issues. This raises the question of how do you keep your family safe online?

What better time to explore this question then on the international Safer Internet Day (SID)? SID is an annual event dedicated to promoting responsible use of the internet and mobile technology, particularly among children and youth. Organized each year by Brussels-based Insafe and co-founded by the European Union, February 8, 2011, marks the eighth SID.  This year’s theme focuses on “our virtual lives” under the banner, “It’s more than a game, it’s your life.”

This year we are embracing the online-gaming theme in the U.S. Microsoft-commissioned a survey of American parents of online gamers which shows that parents and children spend a significant amount of time playing online games together.

· On average, parents and their children play nearly 1.5 hours per day;

· More than 80% of parents play with their children at least once a week, and

· More than half of parents’ gaming hours are spent playing with their children.

To add a bit of fun to helping people learn about online safety , we are teaming with our partners at local Boys and Girls Clubs to sponsor a series of "Family ‘Online’ Game Nights", featuring Kinect® for XBOX® 360. The events will be held in three cities: Atlanta (February 8), Chicago (February 10), and Los Angeles (February 15). Staff, kids, parents and caregivers will have the opportunity to play games, learn how to engage in game-play more safely, and pick up educational materials about personal and family online safety. Microsoft has partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for more than 10 years to help give kids the technology skills they need to succeed in school and life, and we are proud to collaborate with them to provide the tools they need to be safe while online!

Whole New Language: Boys & Girls Club members are learning a whole new language through BGCA's Club Tech program, which teaches young people computer skills, from the basics to online design.

For more on gaming safety:

· Visit:  www.GetGameSmart.com to learn more about safer online gaming for you and your family

· View or download Microsoft’s safer online gaming brochure

Want to join the conversation and learn more about online safety for your family? Here are some resources:

· Check out Microsoft Citizenship’s Privacy and Security page

· Visit www.microsoft.com/protect for general online safety advice and guidance

· Follow www.twitter.com/Safer_Online on Twitter

· Discuss your opinions on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SaferOnline

· Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to help protect individuals online are detailed in a new white paper, “Personal Online Safety in the Cloud