These days kids think being online is a right, not a privilege. It’s how they play games, download music, and communicate with their friends. But however sophisticated your children think they are, they’re still young and naïve compared to a lot of the predators out there. Almost one-third of girls admit to having being sexually harassed in chatrooms, which is a staggering statistic. You want your kids to spread their wings, but you also want to keep them safe. So what can you do?
Talking To Your Children
The first thing to do is talk to your children about the Dangers They Can Face Online. Tell them not to talk to strangers, and certainly never reveal details about themselves. Help them choose a screen name that’s neutral and anonymous. Encourage them to talk to you about their times online, especially about any problems.
Talking can only do so much, and kids can be secretive, without even meaning to hide bad things. You can’t be peering over their shoulders all the time they’re online. Blocking certain sites helps with younger kids, but the older ones are very computer savvy, and can easily circumvent most blocks. But there are a number of options open to you with software.
Filters can stop your kids accessing sites containing porn or dubious material, but much of the danger lies in chatrooms. You need to be able to keep tabs on what was said both by your children and to them.
Many chats will be innocent, and obviously you don’t need to worry about those. But you can put software on the computer, known as keyloggers, which are really spyware, that record every keystroke your kids make. These let you know when they go online, and for how long, what sites they visit, what chatrooms, and what they say. Many are easy to set up, and retrieving the information is also simple.
Others take screenshots of activity that you can see later (your children don’t know this is happening), enabling you to keep tabs on their activity. The software will email you activity reports and alerts to identify activity that may prompt closer inspection. You can also receive email alerts when particular online activities are identified.
There are other types of software you can install on your computer that work well with social networking sites like MySpace, Bebo and Friendster. These track the child’s activities and send you alerts if your child gives out a phone number, address, school address or information, or references to drugs, sex or alcohol.
Finally, there is software that combines the best of a filter and a tracker. These allow you to filter for content on websites, such as pornography, and block them. You can also enter information, such as addresses. If your child tries to give out this information, it’s blocked.
Additionally, if your child encounters pornographic or predatory content, they’ll be warning them of the danger and take a screen shot of the violation, then close the application. An email notification feature will alert you that your child’s online activities have turned pornographic or predatory in nature, and you can view the screen shot to determine if their child is in danger.
The Problems With Software
One of the biggest problems with software involves trust. If you install any of these programmes without telling your child, it’s like saying you don’t trust them. If a problem arises and you need to confront them, then it becomes obvious you’ve been spying on them, which can breed resentment.
If you tell them that you’ve put the software in place, then they might think you don’t trust them, even if you explain your reasons. So it becomes a double-edged sword for you. But, on balance, keeping your children safe has to be your priority.