The Internet can open up the world to your third-graders -- but it still requires supervision.

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One of the most notable components of the third-grade curriculum is Internet proficiency. This year, the Web starts to become an integral part of your child's academic process, facilitating research, group-project communications and self-guided discovery.

The positives of developing efficiency and confidence in Web applications are big. It's tough to get very far these days without knowing how to use the Internet to your advantage, and in 10 years, these skills will only be more essential. In short, the more comfortable your child is with technology, the better.

But there's a catch. Since your child will be doing more online, the risks involved in roaming the digital world will be more prominent, especially because third grade often marks a jump to Web-based socializing. More and more peer interactions will be electronic, and your child will be dealing with all the pros and cons that come along with that -- which means you'll be dealing with them, too, because Internet activity isn't only happening in school.

While 8-year-olds are grown-up enough to navigate the digital sphere, they're not grown-up enough to navigate it safely without your help. Safety on the Internet requires knowledge, practice and at least a little cynicism.

You, then, will be the educator here, and your first job is an unpleasant one: Before you can teach your child how to manage the potential dangers, you need to face some scary truths yourself.

Here goes ...