It’s becoming more difficult protecting children from the dangers on the Internet since there are so many dangers, and these dangers are constantly evolving.
The following critical steps necessary to protect your children on the internet have been taken from the book “How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Road Map for Parents and Teachers” by Gregory S. Smith.
I have edited the recommendations for brevity and clarity. If you follow the process below then you can be sure you have taken the steps necessary to insure your children will remain safe on the Internet.
1. Protecting children on the Internet isn’t just about installing a content filter and calling it a day. It takes a proactive plan that encompasses all devices that can access the Internet. Take an inventory of all such devices in your home. That includes computers, PDAs, cell phones and game units. You can’t develop an effective plan to mitigate risks if you don’t know all the access paths.
2. Search all the internet capable devices for traces of inappropriate content. Simple text phrase searches across all drives are easy to do. Consult your operating system for help. As well, search for photo files (*.jpg, *.jpeg, etc.) and review these files by thumbnail. Questionable content may indicate an Internet safety issue and risk.
3. Take control of all computer administrative passwords. Without them, you’ll never keep ahead of the approaches kids use today to deceive their parents and cover their online tracks.
4. Lock down kids’ PCs by revoking administrative privileges for their accounts as stated above, and limit or remove their ability to install new software. Young people are notorious for downloading software containing spyware and malware.
5. Use filtering software to block inappropriate content (such as hate speech, racism, adult content and inappropriate games) by age category. Keep in mind, content-filtering software alone won’t protect your children online, but it does reduce the risk. If your operating system is Windows Vista, parental control is built in as a function of the system. If you are using Windows XP or earlier, a review of a free, highly recommended filtering product can be found elsewhere on this Blog. If you find this free application satisfactory for your purposes, you can download it from the review page. Click Here:
6. Don’t allow children in elementary school to have e-mail accounts. These are best left for middle-school children and older.
7. Use safe e-mail programs for children in middle school. These programs have functions that allow parents to restrict whom their children can contact. Effective e-mail programs for children also reduce spam, or unwanted e-mail, some of which can be harmful to children. Zoobuh is one such recommended product. Visit their site at Zoobuh
8. Block social networking sites from children in elementary and middle school via a content-filtering program. Online predators love this access route, and much of the content on these sites is too mature for young children.
9. Block popular search engines from children in elementary and middle school with a content-filtering program.
10. If your older teenagers use social networking sites, review what they’ve posted (both personal and public pages), and monitor all usage via stealth software. If necessary, trap their online passwords and log in as them to see their personal profiles, which are usually exposed to a subset of online friends. A free stealth application is reviewed elsewhere on this Blog; you may download the program from that page. Click Here:
11. Block all IM tools that allow children to make phone calls over the Internet. These tools are preferred by today’s predators since parents often don’t see any of the call logs and may not know that their children are even using the Internet to talk to strangers. Consult “How to Protect Children on the Internet” for a list of the products to block.
12. Avoid video cameras on PCs and disable built-in devices on laptops (consult your computer’s manual). Predators can use them to cultivate people as online sex slaves once they’ve been blackmailed, or have exposed a weakness. There really isn’t a good reason to let children use these devices.
13. Don’t underestimate the creativity of today’s sexual predators. They’re not all men looking for girls. For a shocking look at female predators, view “When Girls Do It: The Story of Female Sexual Predators,” which can be ordered at (800) 542-2164.
14. Be proactive and report any online crimes you become aware of to the appropriate authorities, or contact the Cyber Tip line at (800) 843-5678.
15. Use stealth monitoring software, as noted above, on the computers of children in middle school and high school. It will expose everything they do.
16. If possible, avoid laptops with wireless cards. Mobile devices such as laptops are more costly than desktop PCs and introduce more risks. If you purchase one for your teenager, equip it with stealth software and review the logs weekly.
17. Test the effectiveness of the Internet filters used in your children’s schools. Report any issues to the principal, and demand action where appropriate.
18. It is critical that you talk to your children about the risks inherent in Internet usage. Use real-world examples of tragedies—there are several listed in my book. Today’s teens feel like they’re invincible. Tell your children never to post personal information online and never to meet anyone in person that they’ve met online.
19. Trust no one online. You never know who is on the other end.
20. Read my book. “How to Protect Your Children on the Internet” contains a complete road map designed to give parents and educators back the control they need to keep kids safe in today’s technologically sophisticated world. All recommendations are outlined by technology topic and by age category for ease of reference and use.