The internet has opened a limitless new frontier for our children. Unfortunately though, as new frontiers go, the internet is also fraught with its own dangers from exposing the child to unwanted materials to dangerous criminals like pedophiles. Below are some of the things you should know about child safety online.
Internet Elements Parents are Most Concerned About
Here are some of the things that parents, the government and child online safety organizations are most concerned about regarding internet use in general:
* Pornographic materials
* Graphically violent materials
* Hate materials
* Materials about illegal activity like gambling, underage drinking, bomb making, etc.
* Security of personal information
* Contact with cyber criminals especially pedophiles.
* Other age-inappropriate content.
Best Practices for Child Safety Online
Here are some tips on how to minimize the dangers of the internet for your child. Remember that parental control programs are not a substitute for actual guidance from the parents when it comes to responsible use of the internet:
* Keep the Computer Used by the Children Visible by placing it in the common room of the house. This makes it easy for the other adults in your house to monitor what your children are doing online.
* Monitor their Personal Profiles and Activity Online: Take the time to monitor what they do, where they go and who they talk with online. Moreover, do a random check regarding what information [including photos and videos] your children have disclosed online. For smaller children, it is a good idea to have all login information, so you can fully investigate their activity on social networking sites and other sites they visit. There are several third-party monitoring solutions available if you choose to go that route.
Some social media sites like Facebook use automatic minor protection programs such as deactivating public listings and minimizing the exposure of profile information and posts to friends of friends and networks for users who are not yet 18 years old.
* Dangers of Disclosing Personal Information Online: Have a talk with your kids about the dangers of disclosing personal information online. This includes publicly posting where they are, what their plans are, etc. Moreover, children should also avoid answering questionnaires or surveys online as this information may be sold to anyone by the maker of the surveys. Lastly, children should never share their passwords with anyone but their parents.
* Immediately Report Inappropriate Activity to the Website or law enforcement agencies.
* Set Time Limits as to when your Children can access the Internet. This keeps a healthy balance between their online and offline activities.
* Monitor Children’s Contact and Friends List Online: Make sure that they personally know each and everyone in their contacts or friends’ list as these lists may include dangerous people who are pretending to be someone else. Moreover, having unverified people in their social media contacts could have a very large impact on the security of the personal information they post online.
* Keep Open Communications with your Children: Most important of all is keeping communications with children open. This way, your children could ask for your advice regarding their experiences on the net. This may include disturbing communications with another member of a chatroom, an invitation to meet with an online contact, cyberbullying, etc.
Features of Online Child Safety Tools
Parental Guidance coupled with online safety programs for kids is a very good combination to safeguard your children in cyberspace. Here are some of the most effective features of these programs:
Content Filtering and Blocking: Filtering and blocking of child inappropriate content in the internet like sexually explicit content, hate groups, graphic violence, criminal activity and other inappropriate materials such as those pertaining to gambling, games, drinking, etc.
Content Filtering and Blocking Systems:
1. Website Whitelists and Blacklists
2. Keyword /Context Lists
3. Crowdsourced Content Rating Systems
4. Human Review Systems
Blocking Outgoing Content: This feature ensures the security of personal data such as gender, name, address, phone number, mobile number, etc to strangers. This feature is particularly effective when the child uses a chatroom, a forum or any other public venue for communications.
Kid Oriented Search Engines and Browsers: These are search engines and browsers designed specifically for the use of children. These tools will help children find needed information online while blocking out inappropriate content. The search engines in particular will only search for the needed information among pre-approved websites instead of searching the whole internet. Regular browsers like Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Firefox also have plugins or browser features that serve as parental controls.
Online Activity Monitoring: These monitoring tools will keep track of your child’s online activity including the sites they visit, people they had contact with, etc. Some monitoring tools will also include a warning whenever a child has landed on a page with inappropriate content. Keep in mind though that these tools may or may not have filtering or blocking programs.
Time Limiting: Time Limiting, as the name suggests, limits the time your child spends online by following a schedule set by the parent. This way, parents can rest assured that their children are not surfing the net during inappropriate hours of the day.
Operating System Parental Controls: Most Operating Systems also have parental controls integrated into the system. Windows Vista for example has a parental control accessible through the control panel. Here you can set time limits, block specific programs, input restrictions on net surfing, etc.
Remember that these tools are not a substitute for actual guidance from the parents when it comes to online safety and that two way communications or listening to your children is half the equation when it comes to educating them about the dangers of the internet.
Finally, If you’re interested in learning more about the above mentioned parental control software, here are the products that got the best reviews in the Consumers Union evaluation: Safe Eyes from Safebrowse.com CyberPatrol from SurfControl, Microsoft’s Parental Controls, Norton Internet Security from Symantec and McAfee’s Privacy Service. The FBI also maintains a database of known sex offenders online: Sex Offender Registry: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/registry