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Keep Your Kids Safe on the World Wide Web

Jun 29, 2008
Are you wondering how to make the Internet safe for your kids? You want them to use the Internet for research, but you don't want them to find objectionable sites or emails.

Maybe you are hoping to buy a program for your computer that blocks objectionable sites, but will allow them to do the research you want them to do.

I have sad news for you--there is no such perfect solution. There are solutions out there, such as NetNanny, that block any site mentioning one of a list of objectionable words. The result can be funny, such as blocking the word "arm," and at the same time can drive you nuts if you really want to do regular research on, say, breast cancer.

But programs like this fail when trying to filter objectionable photo sites that have no objectionable words. So, how do I know this? I am sad to say that my teenage son enlightened me. Using Google Images, he searched for objectionable sites and found them, even though the filtering program was on.

The software could not have detected the objectionable photos, since NetNanny and similar software look for objectionable words. They are not able to evaluate pictures.

So, how can you protect your child?

*Put the computers the kids use where YOU are in your home. Then monitor what they are doing.

*Have a login password that only the adults know. The kid has to have permission, and oversight, to use the computer.

*Insist that your kids log off when they finish. As a result, they will need an adult to input the password the next time they want on.

*Use NetNanny or a similar filter. It can only help.

*Make sure the kids know your expectations and the consequences for disobeying.

*Unplug the Internet cables if the child doens't need to access the Internet for his task.

*Give younger kids your own email address to use. This protects them from objectionable spam. Give teens an email address, but instruct them to give it out only to people they know personally.

Your watchfulness will pay off. Your children will be protected from what they should not see, and they will also learn good habits for using the Internet as adults.
About the Author
Phyllis Wheeler, the Computer Lady, gives these tips for parents. She also furnishes homeschool computer courses through MotherboardBooks.com, which has offered self-study computer science courses for kids and teens since 2003.
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