Cybermed Update November 2003

Parental Control and the Internet

If you don't ask, you don't get. Asking is free!

- Dr Muruga Vadivale

Well this is how I view my children's attempt at squeezing their parents for things they want or want to do. All parents want the best for their kids. They do not want their children to go through the same hardship that they had been through. Give them a jump-start in life.

Our children are indeed fortunate being born in an age of IT. Information at the finger tips. Almost anything and everything ...just a mouse click away. Unfortunately, there are dangers. Children like to experiment and sometimes they get into a situations that they do not know how to get out from. Sometimes they are lured into a false sense of security and exploited. I will not enumerate the various instances and examples of children being kidnapped, raped, abused and made to experience fear and guilt through this media.

What as parents do we have to do to protect our children? How do we at least keep a watchful eye on their Internet activities? Do you know what your kid is doing or whom he is chatting on line with? What is she or he doing late at night online? Internet is not the only phone is another.....well that probably will be another article.

We as parents are equally to blame. As long as they don't bug us ...good. Let them use the computer, internet etc...they must be doing something useful!

I would like to quote Loise J Freeh, former director of FBI....

Our children are our Nation's most valuable asset. They represent the bright future of our country and hold our hopes for a better Nation. Our children are also the most vulnerable members of society. Protecting our children against the fear of crime and from becoming victims of crime must be a national priority.

Unfortunately the same advances in computer and telecommunication technology that allow our children to reach out to new sources of knowledge and cultural experiences are also leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and harm by computer-sex offenders.

Pay a visit to A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety at the FBI site. The area covers...

What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A Sexual Predator On-line?

What Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing Your Child?

and a section on Frequently Asked Questions.

In addition some useful tips....

What should a Parent Do?

There are 12 online safety tips that parents can take..

1. Put the computer in a visible place in the house

Make sure the computer is in a visible place in the house. Ask questions. Walk by and check what is on the screen. If your child quickly closes the screen, this is a red flag and should be investigated.

2. Spend time on the Internet with your children

Go online with your children as often as possible and help them identify inappropriate communications. Give them a chance to show you what they have learned or the things they like. Send E-Greetings and Christmas cards to family and friends or participate in interactive games together. Ask your children to tell about their cyberspace friends, just as you would want to know their real-life friends.

3. Schedule Internet use for your children

Limit young grade-schoolers to 30-60 minutes a few times a week; older kids may need more frequent access for school projects. This will make them more responsible in using the Internet. This is the tough part. You can have softwares to limit surfing to between 7 am and 10 or 11 pm only or user defined as mentioned above.

4. Limit your children to only certain websites, newsgroups and chat rooms.

Sit down with your child and agree on types of websites your child may and may not visit, limit the use of Instant Messaging and chat rooms. Instant messaging and chat rooms are the biggest culprits to young teenagers in terms of wasting time. Here in lies the greates danger. Worse still if they have web cam access. As long as rules are followed and trust can be maintained these can be great tools. If in doubt restrict access after 10 pm till the next morning or when you are not around.

5. Never to give out personal information.

Instruct your kids never to give out personal information (name, address, telephone number, password, credit card number, and so on) in chat rooms, email, or bulletin boards. Be aware that Web sites for children—even the most reputable ones—sometimes ask for e-mail and home addresses, telephone numbers, and parents’ professions before allowing children to enter.

6. Never to have online profiles.

Instruct your kids never to have online profiles, so they will not be listed in directories and are less likely to be approached in children's chat rooms, where pedophiles often search for prey.

7. Use nicknames instead of real names

A nickname—an online alias (like KingStar or PinkPanther)—is also vital to protecting privacy because it conceals a person’s real identity. Consider sharing the same nickname and e-mail address with your children under 14 so that you can closely monitor the instant and e-mail messages that come to them.

8. Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online.

Instruct children to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission. Never allow them to get together with someone they "meet" online without first checking this “friend” out to the best of your ability. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public place, and be sure to accompany your child. Thus, someone indicating that "she" is a "12-year-old girl" could in reality be a 40-year-old man.

9. Randomly check visited web sites log.

Viewing the log of visited web sites can give you enough information about your kid’s habits, interests and online friends. Normally you should do this only occasionally but if your child becomes secretive, then you should check more often. If you find that the history of sites visited is deleted in your Web Browser, this is a signal that something is going on and should be investigated.

10. Teach children netiquette

Good manners can protect kids, too. Words written are just as strong as words spoken. Tell children never to respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, or harassing. Ask them to be sensitive to others’ feelings when posting online messages and to avoid being rude, mean, sarcastic, or excessively argumentative. A comment that’s meant to be funny could seem insulting and make others mad. Visit message boards and chat rooms with your kids to point out comments that could be misinterpreted.

11. Teach children be careful with e-mails from people they do not know.

Instruct your child never to open emails, especially with attachments, from people they do not know. Most likely these emails contain a computer virus or they are mass mailing (spam) e-mails with inappropriate content.

12. Set administrator password for your Filtering program

If you do decide to have a parental control software do not forget to set the administrator password in your filtering program to protect your settings from being changed by your smart kid. Without this, your filtering program makes no sense. Make sure you store your password in a safe place because if you forget your password you will lose access to your filtering program.

In addition there are at least four (4) steps a parent should take in order to protect his or her children. These include:

  1. Understand what is on the Internet and how to prevent access to inappropriate materials.
  2. Set up rules for your children to follow have a Parent/Child agreement. (see below)
  3. Use commercially available site checking software.
  4. Get involved and stay involved with your children as they use the Internet.

Parent / Child Agreement

Review the following Agreement with your children and post them by the computer as a reminder.

  1. I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
  2. I will not give out my name, address, telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parent's permission.
  3. I will never agree to get together with someone I "meet" online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.
  4. If I get a message that is mean, or makes me feel uncomfortable, I will not respond. It is not my fault if I get a message like that, and I will tell my parents if I do.
  5. I will work with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online, and areas that I am allowed to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.

Parental Control Softwares

There are several parental control softwares in the market. Some are free and some commercial. Depending on your need and requirement there are simple one that restrict activity time online to those that actually monitor all activity online including keystrokes made and these are reported back to the parent. These includes all emails, chats, messaging and internet web sites visited! The email, chats and messaging form both parties is captured and done without their knowledge. So it really depend how much you trust your kid. These softwares can also restrict the use of their favorite programs, games etc. Some of the popular packages are

What do I recommend?

Trust, love and understanding first, if all else fails get the damn software according to your needs.

Locations of visitors to this page

With that I let your "mouse" or your "keyboard" do the "talking".

Till next month, "Happy Surfing".

Cyberdoc ( )

The links to URL mentioned above are valid at the time of writing (26th November 2003).

Last updated 15 January 2006.

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