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Keeping Your Teen Safe Online

Aug 17, 2007
If you want to try to control how your child is surfing the net, refer to the list of Controls listed at the end of this article. But first,it is important to understand that these types of software only solve part of the problem of online predators. Good parenting is the first control a child needs in his life. Software such as we will discuss help, of course, but they will not completely eliminate risks to your children. You have to be a part of and aware of his life by keeping an eye out for certain signs.

Be concerned if your child quickly minimizes the screen or switches the browser if you enter his room. Be concerned if you see a message such as "POS" when you are in the room. Get to know the IM language so you can see what is going on. "POS", by the way, means "parent over shoulder".

-Be concerned if your child receives phone calls from people you don't know.
-Be concerned if your child has new clothing; perhaps a predator is giving him gifts.
-Be concerned if your child suddenly does not want to attend school, or does not want to go online. He may be being bullied.

If you do think there is a problem, the first thing you need to do is report it. YOu can contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children hotline. They are experienced in analyzing these types of problems and alerting the right parties. You should also notify your internet services provider;they are responsible for reporting any suspected cases of child pornography.

One of the most crucial things you can do is to make sure both you and your child are educated about the risks that exist online. Everybody loves the internet and it can bring wonderful things to our lives. BUt it can also be very dangerous. Think of it as you would a swimming pool. It is great fun to have, but if you don't use the proper precautions such as a fence around it, and locks on the fence, it can be a very dangerous thing.

As mentioned, there is various software available to help a parent control online behavior. But this hands off attitude is no substitute for real parenting where you watch your children and know what they are doing. Searching the net will yield dozens or more offers for parental control software, but in order to order any one of them, you have to decide in advance which are the features you really need. You are going to want to control and, if necessary, block websites, emails, IMs and downloads. The idea is to track what your child is doing and saying on the internet. YOu will have to be aware of any websites he visits and when he is online sending instant messages.

The technology for this has been developed for a while and is not at all complicated. Before the epidemic of online child predators became such an issue, spy programs such as this were used to catch cheating spouses. It's just about the same software with new names; it can usually be purchased for less than $100. The more bells and whistles you want on it will make it cost more: up to $1,000.

The software you need for this purpose should be able to do the following:
a. Control Content: An internet filtering device limits the types of websites that can be accessed.
b. Control Programs: Is able to control who is available on IM (instant messaging), P2P (does not allow inappropriate files to be shared freely) and disallows other programs that may be of concern.
c. Control Time: This feature can control the total amount of time your child spends online, and can also limit the time frames within which he can be online. For example, you may not want him to be able to access the internet at 3:00 a.m.
d. Control Log-ins: Automatically keeps track of the sites visited by your child and produces a log for you to review.
e. Usage Controls: Will set up an alarm system whereby you are notified if an off-limits website is visited on the computer being monitored. These alarms can be received on your own email, a text message or on your office or cell phone.

How do you feel about these controls? Feel like you are spying on your kid? You must remember how it felt when you thought your parents were looking through your "things". You felt invaded and distrusted. You may feel that you don't want to do the same thing to your child. In today's cyberworld, however, so much can happen to endanger your children, right within the confines of your home, where you should be able to think they are safe. But if you are concerned about losing your child's trust, are you more worried about losing your child's trust, or losing your child?
About the Author
MJ Batta writes on various aspects of MySpace Dangers and manages the website SpyOnYourKids.Net
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