Kids Internet Safety

The internet moves very fast. The variety of individuals and content that your child may be exposed to is incomparable to any other congregation. Hence, it is important for the safety of your child that you have a mechanism in place to weed out undesirable elements.

The Threat

But where do you start? Let us first look at the threats. Threats can arise from the following three broad sources:

>Malicious code

Viruses, Trojans and other harmful software that can cause instability in your system, steal personal information, etc. The most you can do here is to secure your PC with a recognized anti-virus and a firewall.

>Adult content

Adult sites and content featuring violence, drugs, crime and obscenities. There are many measures to block such content. We shall discuss them in great detail later.

>Undesirable interaction

Possibilities of undesirable interaction across all platforms – emails, chats, video calling, video and sound enabled multiplayer gaming. Over the World Wide Web, there is little accountability for using distasteful language from crude sexual comments to racial remarks.

The Solution

Now let us look at the solutions. As discussed above, the threats arising from malicious code can be laid to rest using a good antivirus and firewall. The most common antivirus programs include Norton, McAfee, ESET NOD32, BitDefender, ClamWin and Comodo. There are ways to build a wall to keep adult content away from your child. The first measure you can take is to enable content control through your browser. IE users can find the option in Tools> Internet Options > Content Advisor (Click enable). Select the appropriate level of content control you wish to exercise.

Over the basic browser based protection, you can install some parental content control software that help you monitor as well as set up rules for internet usage.

It is important to protect your children while they are on gaming platforms, since these platforms often offer chat and video communication through which your child can get exposed to undesirable content. It is also advisable to keep a check on the types of games your child is playing. All licensed games are rated by the ESRB. When you buy a game for your child, look at the rating on the label on the box, as pointed out in the figure below.

The image below states the age and ratings provided by the ESRB for rating gaming content.

Gaming consoles also have safety features such as accounts and pass codes for different users. The PSP and PS3 offer password protection in the Security menu > Pass-code. The default is 0000.

Securing Your Operating System

It is possible to add another layer of security against offensive material. You can secure your OS by enabling the content control feature in Windows itself. Click Start> go to instant search and type “parental”. You will see the shortcut to Parental Controls. Click the shortcut and you will be greeted by the Parental Control screen. Here you can create a new account for each of your kids and control the following features:

  • Web Content

  • Computer Games – filter by ESRB rating

  • Time Limits – select timings for computer usage

All OS and gaming console manufacturers are aware of the need for parental guidance for accessing the internet. Their official sites act as good resources for knowledge of the options as well as recommended updates. The official help sites for some of the common OS are mentioned below.

Websites that talk about online child safety in detail and have products to secure the internet are:

Programs that are exclusively built for protecting your child against the hazards of the internet are listed below.

For Windows users, the following products are available:

  • Windows Live Family Safety (proprietary, free)

  • K9 Web Protection (proprietary, free for home use)

  • NetNanny (proprietary)

  • Cyclope-Series (proprietary)

  • SurfWatch (proprietary)

  • Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway (proprietary)

Mac users can protect their children through the following popular child-security products:

  • SurfWatch (proprietary, free for home use)

  • K9 Web Protection (proprietary, free for home use)

All said and done, sometimes the simplest solution turns out to be the best one. By creating a separate login account for each of your kids and visiting the browser history and “Activity Viewer” feature under “User Controls > Parental Control” is all it takes to keep a tab on your child’s activities on the internet.

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