Protecting Your Kids on the Internet

For children of today, it's hard to imagine what life would be like without access to the Internet. Many schools require Internet usage for doing homework and other educational activities. It is also possible to establish and maintain friendships with people across the country or even the world by going online.

At the same time, there are dangers that lurk in cyberspace of which children and parents need to be aware. Scammers, identity thieves, child predators, and cyberbullies are among the many hazards that face children when they get onto the information superhighway.

Ultimately, the task of protecting children from becoming prey to these threats falls to their parents or legal guardians. In order to keep children safe on the Internet, their adult caretakers will need to understand not only the threats that lurk online but also the tools and techniques that exist for defending children. In addition, they need to protect and monitor their children and teach them how to avoid online trouble.

Parental Controls and Monitoring

To ensure the safety of one's children, it is the duty of the parents to watch out for them and set behavioral boundaries. This extends to the Internet, where children's usage must be monitored and managed at all times.

Parents who observe their children's activities will have a better chance of seeing and intercepting problems as they develop. For instance, parents can install spyware that lets them see if a child is engaged in an unproductive online conflict with others or if they are interacting with adults who the parents do not know or trust. They can also check Web browser history logs for evidence of children visiting objectionable websites. Parents can use prevention techniques to keep kids from being exposed to dangers. Web filtering software is available to fulfill the role of an Internet-based parental control system. Some software packages use a website blacklist technique, which blocks sites containing objectionable keywords as well as sites that are known to be objectionable or potentially dangerous, such as porn sites or chat rooms. Unfortunately, the drawback to this is that some hazardous websites are not on the blacklist and a child may end up visiting them. Another form of filter called a whitelist will block all content from websites that are not on an approved list. This will block virtually all undesirable content but may require parents to add approved sites to the list so children may visit sites that are okay or even necessary.

Security Software and Tips

Viruses and other kinds of malicious software, or malware, may put children, or even the whole family, in danger. They can steal personal information or even log keystrokes and send this data to someone outside the home. This can lead to identity theft, or it could be sent to cyberbullies looking to spy on their victims. Parents will need to install anti-virus and firewall software to minimize these threats. Anti-virus programs are like immune systems for computers in that they seek to prevent malware from causing damage. Firewalls block unauthorized programs from sending data out onto the Internet. Email filtering software is also a necessity in order to reduce the risk of virus infections that come through email. If possible, parents should set up a child's email reading software to read email as text and to not process pictures, text formatting codes, or Web page data. Another good security technique involves setting up a separate account on a computer for a child and not giving them administrator privileges. The parents should be the only ones with administrator accounts, and these should have strong, complex passwords so children cannot guess them. In addition, operating systems such as Windows 7 and 8 feature parental control settings that parents can use to restrict the type of programs, the amount of time, and the hours of the day when a child can use the computer.

Education, Communication, and Setting Guidelines

Parents need to be involved in their children's online activities in order to best help them avoid problems. They need to be educated about not only the numerous positive opportunities that cyberspace offers children, but also the many threats that await them. Parents must keep open lines of communication with their kids and set ground rules about what they should or should not do while online. Younger children should only be allowed to use a computer that is in an area where they cannot easily hide what is on the screen. This typically means the living room or family room and not their bedrooms. Children should be taught not to attempt to meet with strangers or arrange meetings without the consent of their parents. Parents should also explain to them the dangers of sharing personal information on the Internet. It is important to warn children about posting things online that they may regret in the future, as it is nearly impossible for things to disappear from the Internet once they are out there. Under no circumstances should children ever talk about sex or sex-related topics online, and if someone tries to discuss these subjects, they should be instructed to alert their parents immediately.

Free Hosting: Get 6 Months Free...

...when you join our newsletter & buy six months hosting (We hate spam - you can unsubscribe any time)