You hear many horror stories about children using the internet, and a quick look in the news will immediately warn you that this is a breeding ground for extreme views, for pedophiles conducting ‘cyberhickery’ and trolls conducting ‘cyberbullying’. Of course that’s not quite the reality of the internet, in fact the internet is a fantastic tool for democracy, for freedom of speech and for creativity.
The problem is though, that not everyone uses it that way and few mentally ill individuals ruin it for everyone. So the question is, how do you go about protecting your children from all this and what do you go about blocking them from? How do you protect them without controlling them or without molly-coddling them?
The first thing to implement is parental control software. Parental control measures will allow you to block keywords in websites and this can allow you to block off any site that has a mention of something you don’t want your child to look at. For instance you can use parental control in order to block sites that have profanities in their text, or to block websites that have sexual images or references. Of course this will keep them safe from many different things that could otherwise upset them. If you suspect your child has tried to bypass your parental control, then normally you can find this out by checking the browsing history on your web browser (be suspicious of any conspicuously empty histories too).
The problem is though, that it’s not just static text you need to worry about with parental control. The real danger you see is the people who are online and who can engage in cyberbullying (i.e. trolling) and in cyberhickery (i.e. stalking or grooming).
So how do you keep your children safe from these threats? Well parental control can help to a degree to begin with. This is because parental control will also allow you to block specific sites and when your child is young it might be a good idea to block them from the social networking sites. This then can keep them safe from bullies and from strangers until they are old enough to handle them. In the interim you should also educate your children on safe use of the net.
This is quite easy to begin with on something like Facebook which is actually designed with safety in mind. On Facebook you are not meant to accept anyone who isn’t already your friend in real life. This is easy enough to monitor, you simply vet all friend requests. Likewise you can do the same on MSN or Skype, and while this won’t keep you safe from imposters or from people who are pretending to be their friend, it will help to limit the threat considerably.
The other form of parental control – and the best form to begin with – is simply to supervise sessions online. Have one computer that is in a family room and make sure that you are in there when they use it and you can this way prevent them from going on malicious sites or from talking to the wrong people.
This article was written by Kevin Thereon.