Monday, November 10, 2008

Parents need to wake up! Keeping your kids safe on the Internet is your responsibility.

I can't count the number of times I have had someone tell me, “My eleven year old is better at computers than I am.”

If that is really the case, then maybe parents need to take some time out of their busy schedules to take a few computer classes, or if not, don't allow computers in the home that are connected to the Internet.

You see, the reality is this: If you can't figure out what your child is doing on the Internet, you probably should not have it in your home.

While in my opinion, some of the legislation to protect children is going too far and becoming too big-brother for my taste and the penalties for certain crimes are becoming draconian to the point of being cruel and unusual punishment, none of this seems to be curtailing the use of the Internet by predators and purveyors of child porn.

And while those activities are particularly heinous, the Internet opens up children and teens to a whole range of potentially bad things like cyber-bullying, illegal activities they can get into such as downloading stolen music and movies, and access to new “friends” you probably would rather they not hang out with.

I was reading a random message board the other day and saw a thread by a fifteen year old boy concerned because his mother had discovered his downloaded porn. Now, while fifteen year old boys will be curious, he was looking for porn involving people his own age and had downloaded child porn via Limewire. Lucky for him his parents found it rather than ICE or one of the many Operation Fairplay investigations going on that monitors the network Limewire uses to search for keywords connected to CP. Otherwise, instead of getting grounded, he would have gotten arrested.

So parents, if you insist on allowing your kids to have access to the Internet via your home computer and cannot grasp enough of the technology to check on what they are doing, here are some tips to keep your kids safe on-line:

  1. Never, ever allow your kids to have a computer connected to the Internet in a private place in the home, such as their bedrooms.
  2. Keep the computer that is connected to the Internet in a public, well traveled area in your home.
  3. Restrict the time they are allowed to be on the Internet.
  4. If you bought them a game console like an X-Box or PlayStation, make sure you know if it is connected to the Internet and follow the same rules for it as you do the home computer.
  5. If you are not computer savvy, then have someone who is take a look at the computer once in a while and have them remove applications like Limewire, or any other file sharing applications from the computer.
  6. If you allow your kids to have Myspace or Facebook pages, make sure you have an account as well and you are on their friends list so you can monitor their pages. If you don't understand the whole Myspace thing, sit down with your child and have them show you their page and help you set up an account so you can be one of their friends.
  7. Install or have someone install a monitoring program on the home computer like CyberPatrol or Net Nanny that will allow you to set what they can do on-line.
  8. Set up or have someone set up separate user profiles for you and the kids and keep your password secret from them and their password should be known by you. That way you can set the monitoring software (CyberPatrol or Net Nanny) to give them access to what you want them to have access too while not restricting your access to the Internet.
  9. Make sure your kids know that they have no right to privacy from you on the computer and that you will be monitoring their activities.

While the Internet is an awesome tool for research, hobbies, connecting and many other good things, it is also a conduit to many bad things. I have said many times that when history looks back on this age, the Internet will be considered to be the best and worst thing to happen to society, and I believe it.

Check your local area for Internet safety classes and attend them, both for your child's sake and your own. These are typically offered by local law enforcement agencies.

Here are some links to other resources:

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