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    Keeping Children Safe on the Internet

    Since the Internet appears to have become the primary place for pornography to be viewed and there are more and more young people (school aged children) who are using the Internet. Parents / guardians may feel the need to protect those in their care from predators, unwanted images and web sites that they may stumble across, or even go to on purpose.

    It is not my intention to tell you what your child can or cannot look at on the Internet. It is my intention to help you to protect them from content and people on the Internet that you deem to be unsuitable or dangerous.

    I also understand that adults can choose to go to sites that offer pornographic or other types of content that may not be suitable for children and it is not my intent to stop any adult from being able to make that choice. My intent is to make it simple for adults who have one or more minors in their care to protect them, as much as possible and as they feel it is appropriate, from unsuitable content and predators.

    I have looked at some of the filtering software that is available, like SafeEyes and some of the others that were offered by the Government to the Australian population to protect children.

    Most of the products that I tested were very good at doing what they said they would, but they were difficult to implement and manage. Plus if you have a budding computer genius they will probably figure out how to remove or disable the software fairly quickly anyway.

    So I have done some research and come up with a solution that should make things less complicated for the average person, while still keeping the children safe from unwanted content and predators.

    The things I recommend are:-

    1. Children who are in a place where they cannot be seen will try things that they might not do if they know they may be caught. So, place any computers that the children are likely to use in a public area, somewhere that the screen can be seen by anyone in the same room as them. The very best protection for a child is a vigilant adult.
    2. Talk with the children in your care, the earlier you start the better. Below is a list of suggestions that can help keep them safe
      • They must not give out anything while on the Internet that can be used to identify them like:-
        • their last name, a phone number, the school they attend, your address or the address of the school
        • or anything else that others may be able to use identify them, common sense is the best guide
      • Talk with them about some of the images that they may across on the internet and have them tell you if they come across things that they shouldn't be seeing. Make sure that you praise them for telling you, it's much better that they tell you what they've come across rather than having them keep quiet.
      • Talk with them about predators and get them to tell you if someone is asking inappropriate questions in chat, email, etc. Like with the last point make sure you praise them for letting you know about it. Then you can deal directly with the offender in an appropriate manner.
        • I know of a father who found a young man speaking inappropriately to his daughter in an online chat, who got onto the computer and dealt with the young man directly to stop things before they got out of hand. Fortunately this was just a young man about the same age as his daughter, but it could easily have been an adult pretending to be about her age.
    3. For the younger ones - Make sure that you have their password to look at their Instant Messaging program (MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, etc), or social networking site (Facebook, My Space, etc). That way you can login and see what's been happening. This will allow you to take appropriate action if something inappropriate happens.
    4. For the Teenagers – they will think that you are interfering if you have access to their accounts, but you can become a friend of them online to monitor the conversations.
    5. Turn on logging in the Instant Messenger programs so that logs are kept of the conversations. Then you can occasionally open the logs and see what's going on.
    6. If you find a predator, report them to the police. The logs that you have kept (from the last point) or the login to the social networking site will be very handy to help the authorities track the predator down.
    7. Talk with the children in your care, I know that this is the second time I've said it but it's the most important thing. A good relationship with the child in your care is the most effective thing to protect them. If they think that they can't trust you, or think that they are likely to get in trouble for whatever has happened, they won't tell you anything!
    8. Don't forget to look at the screen occasionally to see what they're up to.

    Last but not least, and I know I've said it before, nothing is as good at protecting a child as an adult that is involved in the childs life.

    P.S. if you want to use some simple technology to help protect your child, you can also investigate using some of the filtering that is offered by OpenDNS, which will filter all content that comes into your home. If you are interested in this and need help implementing this contact us and we well be glad to help.