Saturday, 09 October 2010 15:48

How To Keep Your Kids Safe Online

Written by  Brittany Trumble
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This detailed guide will help keep your kids and teens safe while they are online. I am sure that most parents are aware that being online is part of nearly every kids day. For most, it’s the main way of communicating with friends, gaming, and research. Children and teens spend hours doing this every day. So you can’t help but wonder, how safe are they in cyberspace?


Now basically, we can break this topic into two groups – children and teenagers. But let’s face it, protecting your teens is the much harder task, they are very computer-savvy and want their independence. But for all they think they know, they can still be easy targets for online predators. Now, what I think most parents try to do is monitor their kids online, which it great (with younger kids especially). There are some efficient ways of doing this such as:  

-          keeping the computer somewhere visible, where it’s easy for you to supervise them;

-          Putting a time-limit on how long they can stay on the computer;

-          Above all, take the time to talk to your kids about the dangers when surfing on the internet.

Now this works great for children, but let’s face it, teenagers want their freedom, and there isn’t always going to be a parent around to constantly look over their shoulder. But luckily, there are many things you can do to protect your kids online, there are even all kinds of different software options, however I strongly suggest this only be used as a last resort. Esspecialy  when some the easiest steps to safe surfing is to use the controls already built into your computer system. Hense, the parental control panel.

Parental Controls

Parental controls can be set-up on almost any computer system. With Windows Vista for example, parents can create logon accounts for their kids, and set parameters for those accounts, such as what sites the kids can visit, what programs and games they can use, and even when, and for how long they can use the computer for.  Parents can also bring up a report on all of their child’s activities. So absolutely nothing is surreptitious.

 

 

Screenshot of Vista’s Parental Control Page Blocker

Now, If you don’t have windows Vista, Internet Explorer also does a great job with parental control features. One great feature is download blocking, which stops your kids from accidentally downloading viruses, or illegal music and movies, and other things that could potentially be a threat to your child or your computer. You can find it in the parental controls setting panel. Just make sure your using an updated version of Internet Explorer to take advantage of their added benefits.

Internet Options > Content, then in the Content Advisor box, select “Enable.”

Youth Search Engines

For younger children who like to surf the web, you can apply a youth search engine. This are search engines (such as google and yahoo) that are 'child friendly' and designed specifically for children. Yahoo has a page for kids with a search engine, whic h is www.kids.yahoo.com, These child-friendly search engines makes sure all the sites that are searched are filtered and appropriate for younger kids. If your child has their own computer, then programming a youth search engine as their homepage would be a great idea!

Setting-up Safe Search Filters:

Now for teens and pre-teens who don’t want to use kids search engines, you can instead apply something called a ‘safe search’. Google has a Safe Search Filtering tab (which Filters inappropriate text and images on the search engine). Yahoo is another site that lets you switch on SafeSearch filtering from the Preferences page. MSN also has a SafeSearch filter in the Settings page. Now these aren’t always perfect at filtering explicit material, but they do make for a good start.

Last but not least, I recommend you should also install a pop-up blocker. This may be one of the most important filtering tools as it also helps protect your computer from spyware and viruses that are nothing but a hassle. Make your children very aware that they should never click on any pop-up’s or images that appear on the screen spontaneously. Many times, they are a threat to your computer.

Software Options:

Now, for those extremely cautious parents out there who want their kids to be overly protected. There are many different types of software options that allow for that extra protection.  The filtering software that regularly receives great feedback is ContentProtect. One of its biggest advantages is that you can control and receive reports distantly. So if you’re in the office and the kids are at home just getting home and going online, you can check the activity log and even alter the settings for the software from wherever you are. It also offers filtering options, and you can also set it up so you receive an e-mail if your kid tries to access any blocked material. Ofcourse, you do have the ability to override the system by using a password.

Safecomputerkids.com  - is another software which also acts like a web watcher. It allows you to track what your kids are doing, what they are searching, and you can even go back and track their instant messages they send and receive online. Believe it or not, it also has a dictionary which translates all the online slang and abbreviations that kids type while messaging these days (but that’s going a little overboard –isn’t it?).

Speaking of which, there’s also a site called www.netlingo.com that translates these cyber codes for parents for free, so if your ever curious of what some online lingo means, just search it in their dictionary and it will translate the cyber code for you.

Now, I strongly believe that software should only be used as a last resort, it is important to give your children your trust unless parents have good reason not too trust their children.

Communication is Key:

Now, there really is so much lingo out there that parents should be aware of to help understand how kids communicate online. But I think that communication between parents and their children can be a powerful tool in itself. I really can not hense enough how important this is. Educate your kids, talk to them about Cyber predators, and all the dangerous things that are out there.  Of course motoring your kids is important, but more important than that is communicating with them, let them know why the internet can be dangerous, because believe it or not, kids listen.

The ideal solution has nothing to do with software or filters, or even controls. It’s having a good   enough relationship with your teen that things can be discussed openly and honestly. That said, teens can be willful, and sometimes very secretive. In this case you should watch for warning signs, such as:                        

  • Do they switch screens on the computer when you enter the room?                                                                           
  • Are they vague when answering your questions about what they are doing while online?

 

You should always allow your child to have some freedom. But you also have to be sure that they’re safe. In my opinion, parents should only use software as a last resort. Hopefully, though, it will not have to come to that. Education, communication, and honesty from an early age are the best tools that you can use to keep your kids safe.

Tune in to Tech-ER to learn more about this topic and many more… safe surfing everyone!

Last modified on Sunday, 06 March 2011 07:48

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