Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Protecting Your Children on the Internet

Let’s talk about the risks to your children. We have to put these in context of the child’s age nd maturity level. I would encourage my son when he was younger to look at some of the political cartoons and commentary, but he was definitely not ready for some other types of material out there.

Exposure to Inappropriate Material

Normally when you think of inappropriate material you think of pornographic images. These definitely exist in abundance, but there is a lot of other stuff that is inappropriate depending on age and maturity level. It’s not all just photos. There is erotic written material, hate sites, radical religion, and violent images or ideas.

There are sites based on Japanese anime’ and have cool cartoon that attract kids. Just because you see your child just reading text, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check the material. On some hate sites, it might take a bit of digging before the real message comes through.

Physical Molestation


Predators do exist. They exist on the streets and on the Internet. The Internet makes it extremely convenient for them to screen out potential victims. They will seduce the victim chat, email and instant messaging. The predator will attempt to drive a wedge between the victim and their family, moving control to the predator. While not every mail your child receives is from a predator, you need to be aware of who your child is communicating with.

Harassment

There are mean people. Your child might stumble on one these during their web surfing. These people can say and do some very hurtful things. Your child needs to know that these people exist and how to keep their anonymity on the Internet.

Legal and Financial Exploitation

Children can be tricked into giving out information that can lead to identity theft or credit card abuse.
Also your child might engage in illegal activity. The courts have become more and more un accepting of such behavior. You or child might suffer civil or criminal fines or even jail time.

Danger Signs

· Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
· You find pornography on your child's computer.
· Your child receives phone calls from men you don't know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.
· Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know.
· Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
· Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.

How do I Protect my Children

The computer needs to have monitoring software on it and/or be in a room where the parents are most often. Otherwise this is negligence! I will keep harping on this. You need to talk to your child and supervise their activities. I know the last statement is a bit draconian. It is meant to get your attention and start some thought processes that might help your children. A good monitoring program is Spector. Spector provides screen shots of what the child is viewing a given point in time. You can set it for every five seconds and up. Content filtering is based on either web ratings or a commercial developed list of acceptable sites. Once again, you can set for the child’s age and maturity level.

Tips

· Place home computers in the family room or kitchen where the screen is in view of a parent for much of the time.
· Supervise! Supervise! Supervise!
· Do not allow children to use adult chat room and instant messaging services such as MSN Instant Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and IRC. Even "child-safe" versions of these services should only be used under parental supervision.
· Do not allow children to use inappropriate handles or ID's for email or chat forums. Anything ending in 69 (very commonly seen) or xxx_name_xxx, for example.
· Do not allow children to have email accounts on web-based free email services such as Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Netscape Mail, etc. Restrict email usage to conventional email accounts provided by your internet service provider.
· Teach children not to pass personal details such as their name, address, school or other information to strangers by email, via web forms, or in chat rooms.
· Do not allow children to perform Web searches without adult supervision. Use Google, with the Google SafeSearch option turned on.
· Review the history of web sites viewed in a web browser, as well as the contents of the "Bookmarks" or "Favorites".
· Do not allow children to register at web sites without carefully checking the site's privacy policy.
· Do not allow children to download and install programs without parental supervision, virus scanning and knowledge of what the program will do.

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