Protecting Children Online
The Internet can be a wonderful resource of information, assisting children with their homework and developing their educational skills. Regrettably, a recent University of Boston study showed many children have received unwanted online advances. Giving our children a safe environment to grow up in, starts at the home. Now we have the Internet, extending our homes into the unmoderated vastness of the World Wide Web.
Online advances can be received through unsolicited email and unmoderated chat rooms. A chat room is where users “chat” by typing in messages that are displayed on the website (in the chat room). The majority of chat room participants remain anonymous, using an alias or nickname. If your children like to use chat areas, encourage them to stay in the public areas and not to go into the private rooms. Atkidz.com provides a filtered chat room with adult supervision.
It is difficult to completely control all Internet activity, but as a parent, you can set guidelines with your children, check computer logs and install software as a safeguard.
Probably the easiest thing to do is to put the computer connected to the Internet in a main area of the house that has traffic through it. You also need to talk with your children, let them know that you don’t want them to give out personal identifying information about themselves or their family. If at all possible, sit with your children when they go online. It can be very rewarding.
To see what websites have been visited on your computer, you can check the history logs in Internet Explorer. Click in the menubar: View-Explorer Bar-History.
There are several kinds of software you can install allowing you to block objectionable material and to track websites that are visited. “Net Nanny” is one of the highest rated applications. They maintain their own database and you can choose which types of material are filtered. “Cyber Patrol” prevents websites from being displayed, has time controls, prevents the posting of personal information and has a search engine with age appropriate content.
You can also check with your ISP for a server-based filter. The software is installed on the host server and filters out objectionable websites before they can come through to your computer. Locally, AOL allows you to set controls for different age groups, and MountainAccess.Net has a “Family Values” package with a host based filter.
When “Surfing the Net” with your children, try exploratorium.edu. The website is a Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception with interactive exhibits. Netmom.com sells a guide to 3,000 family safe websites and has a link to their top 100 sites online.
If you want more information about online child safety, go online to getwise.org. They present details of online problems sorted by age group. They are also an easy starting point for family online activity. They have art, science, musical and educational websites organized by age group from 2 to 17.