Protect your kids online
I have been running a small IT company for over 10 years. In the last 6 months I have been asked this question more than in the previous 9 1/2 years put together. Why?
The reason, I think, is articles such as these:
As a parent who wouldn't be worried? I know I am, and my kids are still young enough to be easily supervised.
What are the issues?
There are 3 main issues related to young people accessing the internet. The first is that they will, either unknowingly or intentionally access 'innapropriate content' such as pornography, gambling or violent imagery.
The second is bullying via social networks, usually by peers.
The third is 'grooming' by older people via social networks and instant messaging.
What to do about it
As with 'offline' activities younger children are relatively easy to keep safe. It is not unreasonable to only allow under 10's only supervised access to a shared family computer. Although with schools increasingly asking even junior school pupils to complete homework etc online, this can be easier said than done....
Software such as cyberpatrol can be set to allow access only to a limited number of sites, such as the learning platform at your childs school and other designated sites. The amount of sites that your child can access can be varied depending upon their age and maturity. The software can also enable monitoring of all computer activity and you can limit the times that the machine can be used.
With older children the situation is more complex. It is tempting to try and monitor and control everything your teenagers do online but this can cause more problems than it solves. For one thing, there is no software or service that can provide 100% protection, especially if your teenager is putting their considerable energy and resourcefulness into avoiding them.
In addition, a 7 year old has no real right to privacy, but it can be argued that a 16 year old certainly does. Would you follow them when they go out and open their post?
This is a complex issue but the closest I have come to an answer is two fold. Educate them and educate yourself.
Place a computer in a shared area of the house and most importantly take an active interest in what they are doing. Software can help - but you will have to think carefully about what the rules should be.
Take an active interest in what they are doing.
Kids often know, almost instinctively, what is inappropriate behaviour. The problem is that they either dont feel confident to tell someone about it, or they feel they will be punished in some way if they talk about it. As in any other aspect of their lives, promoting good communication is key.
Here's some useful information about this complex issue from CEOP.
Ask your local computer expert for advice regarding the numerous parental control and filtering tools available.