Saturday, January 05, 2008

Children and Internet Safety - Web Browsing

My Catholic School Teacher Wife mentioned today that somebody should put together a seminar for parents with regards to Internet Safety, and Security... I worked for an Internet Service Provider for 9+ years, and have been to what I call the "end of the internet" (I got to the point where there was absolutely nothing else that I wanted to look up anymore). So, I thought I would start by putting together some resources for today's parents to get them started...

I am going to start with Web Browsing, because I think this impacts the largest group of users... I allow my 6 year-old to browse the web to play some games etc, but he isn't into email or chatting just yet...

Web Browsing Safety
You will quickly learn that if something is on the internet once it could probably be on there several times. The topic of Web Safety has been written about on several sites, but here are my personal recommendations, and a couple of websites that every parent should spend some time reading...

- Take Safety for granted anywhere - if you are on the internet then you are at risk. I learned this when a picture of a squirrel standing on its hind legs was referred to inappropriately by a group of students. An internet filter is not going to stop a picture of a squirrel that is just being taken out of context even though the overall situation became inappropriate.
- Click on random links from a search engine without reviewing the "summary information", or knowing that it is a reputable link. It is always wise to start the search of a topic with a known site such as Wikipedia, and then move on to the links that they cite as sources for additional information.
- Click on advertisements, or links that are provided by the service the webpage is using without knowing the risks. An example of this is the NavBar at the very top of this page. If you click "Next Blog" you will get to some adult material very soon.
- Click on links in email and fill-in information unless it is something you have requested. I like to use the analogy of receiving an unsolicited phone call. If they call me without me asking then they are not going to get my Credit Card information. "Feel free to send me some information in the mail about your Charity and I might be interested". is a normal reply. The same should be thought of with regards to email, and login (and/or cc) information.
- Assume that the information I am providing is complete, but know that it is a good start...

- Setup your computer in the middle of a high-traffic area in your house, so that you can review frequently what is being viewed.
- Specify times that your child is allowed on the computer utilizing the internet, and enforce those rules.
- Check the web browsing history on your computer regularly. If it is normally populated, and suddenly becomes empty then that should be a "warning sign".
- Talk to your children about the dangers of using the internet, and how you are going to work together to ensure their safety.
- Acquire a filtering solution to provide an additional layer of safety for your family. You wouldn't allow your child to go over to another person's house if you knew they were dangerous, so why would you allow them on the internet without taking some precautions.

Websites for additional information

A comment with regards to software solutions... There are several internet providers including an "online protection suite" with their broadband services. Here are links to two that providers that are popular in my area, but check with Customer Support at your local provider.

Charter High Speed Security Suite

ATT Yahoo DSL - Try both of these links Link1 Link2

That's all for now, and I would appreciate any comments on problems you have experienced, or additional tools you recommend...

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