Keeping our children safe is ultimately the parents responsibility. If we take our kids to the park, It is up to us to make sure they are safe. If we let them sleep over, It is still up to us to ensure it is a safe environment. Anywhere we take our children, we constantly lookout for and ensure their safety.
Then why is it different when we enter the online arena.
If you were at the park and saw a complete stranger talking to your 13 year old girl, You would be going over there and finding out what they wanted with your little girl, Many people would be incensed to catch a 37yearold man befriending their 12 year old boy. Why then is it an invasion of privacy to look at your Childs internet history, chat logs and text messages.
There are many programs that promote safe internet viewing, But the main way to ensure your child’s safety in implementing ground rules first and foremost at the start of the child’s internet experience.
Maintaining control over your child, especially over the internet, is not only safe but I believe is mandatory for good parenting.
I know some people will cry control freak or parental smothering, but If it protects the child, they will appreciate it when they are older.
The biggest problem is that many children know more about computers than their parents. It is a good investment to get some computer training, or get on the computer yourself. The more you use the computer the more you will feel comfortable with it and the more you know about the computer gives you more knowledge to be able to assess situations as they come up.
The location of a computer is of utmost importance. Having the computer in a high traffic area, ensures that you can easily keep an eye on what is happening. Never let a child have access to the internet from the closed doors of their bedroom. I heard of a boy that was running a site from his bedroom where people would pay to see him naked and masturbating. Imagine the parents horror when they found out, had the computer been in the main thoroughfare of the house, this would never have happened. Allowing unsupervised access of the internet is a bad parenting technique. If you let your child wander through the city, it would be neglect, Letting your child browse the internet unsupervised is no less neglect. Children are very curious, they will lookup sites that they have heard from at school, from friends, and they will click on ads that look good.
Black and White lists
I am a big advocate in using white and black lists. What is a white and black list? Basically a white list is a list of sites that are accessible to the browser, a black list is a list of sites that are blocked from view. You use either the white list or the black list as you are viewing the internet.
Using a white list.
White lists are the best protection that you can give a child. Only the sites that appear on the white list are accessible to the browser. If disney.com is on the list then I can look at any pages that are under disney.com, including disney.com/anypage_iwant_to_see.html. If cars.com is not on my white list, I am unable to view anything on that website.
As you can imagine, it does take time to prepare a white list. Look at the sites you want to allow and copy them into the white list. Then activate the white list with a password. Even though it may take time, it is well worth the effort. It is quite easy if you start when the kids are little and all they want to view is a couple of favourite games sites, then as they grow, the white list grows too. As children become teenagers and want to expand their internet usage, for assignments and even work, you can supervise internet usage and add recently visited sites to the white list. I would strongly advocate using a white list when you are not their to supervise. Sometimes a white list may not be appropriate due to the limitations., there is the blacklist option.
Using a black list.
When using a blacklist, If a site comes up that is on the black list, the browser will not allow content to be seen. This means that anything that is not on the blacklist is accessible. If toysareus.com is on the blacklist, then no one can look at it, but if pornography.com is not on the blacklist, then anyone can look at it. Often blacklists are included with software and can be updated as new sites are found to be inappropriate.
A white list is much safer than a blacklist, but again the use of such lists are very much an individual decision. Popular internet Protection have black and white lists included, like trend micro internet security protection.
Social networking sites and chat sites
The question of social networking sites and chat sites is easy. Do not allow them at all. If you explain to your child that social networking sites are not safe from the start, they will have an understanding that that is just the rules. Primary children are not really interested in social networking but teenage children live for it. The problem is that they could very well die for it too.
There was a case in Melbourne, Australia where two friends encouraged each other to commit suicide in a bizarre suicide pact, that was instigated over an internet social networking site. There are many news stories of children being groomed over chat sites and finally abused when they meet in the real world.
Oh.. I can hear the cry of “but you can set it to personal so only your friends can see you”. Yes, this is true, but do a search for ‘private profile hacks” and you will see how secure your private profile is.
Instant messaging can be a fun way to keep in contact with friends and family. You really need to use caution and know exactly who your child is talking to. You can have a family Instant Messaging account so that you know who is on the contacts list. I know recently of young girl who met up with someone she did not know through Instant Messaging. She had been messaging him for months, a friend of a friend, and one day decided to go and meet him in person. This type of behaviour is the exact thing that I am trying to help stop. Had this girls parents stopped her from messaging anyone she did not know in person, it would not have happened.
A great way to keep track of exactly what is going on, on your computer is by way of a key logger.
A key logger records any keystrokes used on the computer. For IM it only records one way of the conversation, but you have an idea what is going on. Any mouse clicks are not able to be recorded, so a site clicked on from another site is unable to be determined in this way. There are free key loggers available, a good one is revealer keylogger.
Often look at your internet history logs. If somebody is deleting them, be very suspicious of why they have been deleted. While talking about browser history, be aware of the browsers installed in your computer. If you only use Internet Explorer and Firefox is installed, who is using Firefox, check the Firefox history as well. If a browser is not being used, delete it.
In 2003, Family Safe Media stated a statistic of some 2.5 million emails a day are pornographic. Instil in your child to never reply to an email if they don’t know who it is from. Not to mention the danger of computer viruses that can be installed on your computer. Regularly check emails and know who they are from. Invasion of privacy? No, not at all, you would want to know who your child is talking to down the street, Online is no different.
The unobtrusive method of “spying ” on email is setting up their email address and keeping a copy on the server that you can log into and look at. Talk to your email service provider about how to do this. Or better still, just have one family email address that everyone uses.
The best way to know what is going on with your child is communicating, face to face, with the child. Find a place to talk to your child from a young age, around the dinner table, with the family and one on one with you and your child, take them out for a regular milkshake, or use saying goodnight as a time to go over the day with your child. Starting this type of communication from early on will help when the children get to be teenagers. If you implement a talk , later on in life, it may take time for the child to open up, so don’t give up after the first milkshake.