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Should You Monitor Your Child's Online Behavior?

Aug 29, 2007
As a parent with a child that uses the Internet, you are inevitably going to be worried about what is going on in his or her cyberworld. So, how do you truly find out, without overstepping your boundaries? It's a good question, and one that more and more parents are struggling with.

Things to know:

The largest group of viewers of Internet porn is children between ages 12 and 17

89% of sexual solicitations were made in either
chat rooms or Instant Messages.

One in five children who use computer chatrooms has been approached over the Internet by pedophiles.

More than 11 million teens regularly view porn online.

One solution to finding out what exactly is going on is to install a monitoring service. There are many available for use and some monitor website visits while others monitor instant messenger services. All can be installed and run in the background so your child won't even know they're being watched. Some would argue that this goes to far, while others say it's a personal choice.

There are many parents who report using software that has enabled them to nip potential drug and alcohol problems in the bud. Others say that they've been able to steer their children clear of parties where inappropriate behavior will be involved. One of the most disturbing reports to date is a father who discovered, through the use of monitoring software, that his 13-year-old daughter was having a sexual relationship with her 37-year-old teacher.

But when does parenting become paranoia? And when do you begin to infringe on your children's right to privacy? These are all important questions that parents face when delving in to their children's online activities. Child psychologists indicate that, since it is your responsibility to protect your children, it is absolutely acceptable for you to use such software. However, you should discuss it first with your children and tell them that you will be checking up on them and also lay out very clear ground rules about being on the Internet and what's acceptable.

If you choose to not go so far as monitoring software, do consider using a filter on your Internet connection. While this will not tell you where your children are going and who they are talking too, it will block objectionable material from popping up on their screen. Also, check your web browsers history to see what pages they've been looking at. If your 15-year-old visits a porn site once, don't freak out; you'll only alienate them. If, however, you see multiple visits, it's time to have a serious conversation.

As your children get older, you will face even tougher questions surrounding their right to privacy and what you have a right to know. Finding a balance between keeping your child safe and ignoring the obvious is a tough job, but it is possible. Keep your computer in a location where it is easily seen by you; if you have a laptop in the house, be sure your children are using it in a central location. And remember, communication goes a long way toward finding out what is going on. Talk to your kids and encourage them to speak up if they encounter something online that makes them uncomfortable.
About the Author
Richard Bliss is an Internet Security Expert and VP of Marketing with with worldwide GroupWise monitoring software provider GWAVA. Visit them online and see why GWAVA is the #1 software provider for Novell GroupWise.
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