Parents Internet Guide - Parental Controls

A Parent's Guide to the Internet and it's Dangers to Children, and Parental Controls software information.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Back to Blogging

I'm not opposed to blogs (obviously as I author three of them). I started my first when I was 19 and I use to keep in touch with friends as we've all moved away from each other since graduation from college. I think, in this way, it's okay for teens to have blogs as well. Ranting and raving with friends about things that are happening in your life is going to happen whether it be online or off.

The problem is that posting negative things online leaves a trail. It's no longer a matter of he said/she said because there is physical evidence of who actually said (or didn't say) what. This can also come back to haunt them later in life when a future employer googles their name and stumbles upon their blog, which is happening more and more frequently. A good way to see just what is out there is to google your child's name and see what comes up. If personal info or private stories come up, instruct them to take those entries straight off their blogs.

Another problem is that its common to post pictures in blogs. While this may seem harmless, it is easy to to copy those same pictures and edit them a program as simple as photoshop. Doing the same google search will also pull up any pictures online related to your child's name. If this occurs, instruct your child to take those pictures down.

The good news is that online journals such as livejournal, xanga and myspace have privacy settings. In other words, they allow the user to limit who, if anybody, can read any particular journal entry. The bad news for parents is that you have to be a user of that journal and be added as a 'friend' by your child to be able to read what they are posting under those settings. Again, the AOL Red Blog allows parents to restrict their child's blog. If you think your child needs your help in restricting their blog, this is the way to go.

Some good news is that I've heard a rumor that a private software company is starting to work on a blog monitoring program. The only downside is that writing software of this magnitude will take a while. At least we're on the right track!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Is This What You Want YOUR Kids Doing Online?

"crux" proved my point.

I'm sure my readers will notice the profanity laden comment on the previous entry. Generally I would delete things of that nature because there was not one well founded opinion in it whatsoever. However, upon following crux's link I was taken to the vampirefreak website and I, consequently, stumbled upon crux's xanga blog .

It turns out that crux is 16 and describes himself as a nympho. He has posted pictures of his, self-defined, body modifications. Again, I don't think I need to add too much commentary here. If you want to see what's out there on the Net; what teens are doing, who they are talking with and what they are saying, simply follow the link. Remember that crux is an extreme example, but a good one nonetheless.

Also, crux vulgarly tells me that he knows how to be safe, yet gives out his personal site with links to his blog, his AIM and YM user names, which give infinite information about him, although he may not realize this. Also, simply by leaving this comment (referred to as flaming) I now have his IP address which tells me his location, what type of Internet service he uses, and much more. This is how cyberbullying begins. Unfortunately, crux offers a perfect example of the immortality complex that most teenagers have.

You'll also notice in his comment that he and his peers frequently engage in sexual discussions and pass around sexually explicit pictures. My guess is that crux is over-exaggerating, probably very much so as many teens actually do go into chat with innocent intentions, however we know that this sort of activity does go on and is very common among kids in his age group.

Again I reiterate, is this what you want your kid doing and how you want your kid behaving online?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Internet Safety Classes for Girls

A 2002 study by Girl Scout Research Institute found that girls between the ages of 13-18 need stringer parental guidance when navigating the Net. 30% of the girls surveyed reported being sexually harassed in a chat room and 86% surveyed said that they could chat in a chat room without their parents' knowledge. The Girl Scouts of the USAs, in turn, have implemented "Staying Safe - Issues for Girls" program which allows girls to participate in workshops on media know-how. Read more.

This seems like a step in the right direction, but unfortunately, is only open to Girl Scout participants. We need to do better than this. We're excluding all boys and a large segment of girls with this education. How can we make programs like this available to all kids?

Friday, July 22, 2005

AOL RED Blogs

If you are concerned about your teen blogging, have them sign up for the RED blog by AOL. Launched in March, the RED blog is strictly for teens ages 13-17 and allows parents to set up privacy settings, which are private, semi-private and public. Kudos at AOL for starting the blog monitoring process. Hopefully the private blog services will follow suit.

Newest Alleged Sex Offender

Noel Neff, an editor of Weekly Reader, a children's Newspaper, has been arrested by the FBI for soliciting a minor via the Internet. Neff thought he was speaking to a 14-year-old boy named Chris, while in reality he was talking to an FBI agent. He was apprehended at a shopping mall on July 9 where he was supposed to meet the boy. The communications had been going on since April. Apparently, during Neff's conversations with 'Chris' he sent a picture of himself in his underwear and said he'd had sex with young boys before.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Parental Controls Software Review

If you are seriously interested in purchasing parental controls software, check out the review first. These reviews are done by actual product users, but are screened and posted through Windows Marketplace, so you can be sure they are genuine. Compare prices and product features, but be sure to check out the product websites as well and ask questions of the developers. Another good place to check out product reviews is at tucows. Tucows is by far the most popular and reliable rating site for downloadable software.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Incredible Internet

For am all comprehensive and easy to navigate guide to the Web check out the incredible internet site. No online protection is fail-safe, however Incredible Internet, powered by Qwest, delves into every nook and cranny imaginable on the Net and covers the best ways to safeguard them all. Beyond online safety, they have tips on shopping, Internet for men, Internet for women, etc.

Really helpful for me, personally, with identity theft protection ideas. It also explains how teens may be the most vulnerable to identity theft on the Internet. Plus, I also liked their technology section. It gives great explanations about some of the newer stuff out there. Check it out!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Monitor the Pharm

Pharming parties and prescription drugs are to teens now what raves and ecstasy were to teens a decade ago. Basically, a pharming party consists of a bunch of kids getting together to buy or trade and take prescription drugs to get high. The scary thing is that these drugs not only come from medicine cabinets, but also from the Internet. Internet Pharmacies are popping up all over the place. The meds can be purchased without involvement from a doctor and because they're not being delivered by a trusted pharmacist you never can be sure of exactly what you're getting.

Check out what's for sale on one of the more popular pharmacy sites. Also, check the Google News link and do some pharming searches to read the most recent publications on the problem.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Keep Kids Safe Site

The Internet Keep Safe Coalition is an organization founded by state governors and first spouses in an effort to promote Internet safety. According to the site:
Studies show that 1 in 5 youth using the Internet receive an online sexual solicitation in a 1 year period, and 29% of children will freely give out their home address if asked.

So iKeepSafe created a cartoon character, Faux Paw the Techno Cat, as their mascot and the site uses a bunch of interactive games and cartoons to teach Internet safety. The site has free stuff for kids and downloadable worksheets for parents and kids to work on together. There is also a section for parents to read up on the latest Internet Safety news. The most recent article is dated as of yesterday.

I think it's a great idea, but definitely geared toward younger kids. Of course, reaching them when they're young is the best start. Also, check out the Family Web Watch site review.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Popular Blogs

If you're not sure where kids are going to get their blogs, here are some of the most popular spots:

MySpace encourages you to search for and meet people.
LiveJournal easy to use blogging tool with joinable communities.
Xanga very similar to LiveJournal, but populated more by tweens and younger teens.
Blogger not quite as user friendly or as easily searchable as LiveJournal and Xanga and used more by older teens, college students and adults.
Blog City probably the least popular of them all and, again, used more by older teens and adults.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Cyberbullying - A Problem for Everyone

The schoolyard bully has turned into the cyberspace bully. The difference is that the era of technology allows a greater audience and more anonymity for the said bully. Often referred to as flaming, cyberbullies send harassing mass e-mails and IMs and leave rude and offensive comments on message boards and blogs. It is also common for cyberbullies to hack into various accounts and change passwords. This can happen to anyone of any age, but it tends to occur in the middle school age most often.

Teaching Netiquette is probably the best way to prevent cyberbullying, as comments are sometimes meant in jest, but are taken out of context, etc. Most schools do monitor Internet usage, so bullying can be easily traced. Keeping passwords private and changing screen names frequently can help. Last, if the bullying is getting out of control, print transcripts of the e-mails, IMs, chat conversations, and anything else and report them.

For more information check wired safety.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Perhaps I Should Clarify

I am not a parent. I am in my early 20s and only a year out of college. In all actuality, I can probably relate better to a teenager than to the parent of a teenager because it was mere years ago that I experienced those awkward years myself. I remember when my parents first got the Internet. I was (and still am) much more Web savvy than them. I know that, at times, my curiosity got the best of me and I ventured into places and talked to people that I wouldn't have if I wasn't in the comfort of my own home. Nothing bad ever happened to me. I think my worst experiences were harassing IMs and emails from peers and I did the same to others my age as well.

I believe that parents should treat the Internet the same way they treat the 'real world' as they raise their children. Younger children should be monitored and given more guidance than older children. Parents should lead by example, keep tabs on what their kids are doing, teach online etiquette and provide information on the good and bad sides of the Internet. After all, in many ways the Internet truly is a virtual world. As children get older and earn more trust from their parents, they should given more freedom and be allowed to make their own decisions and, consequently, their own mistakes. I do feel though, that even as teenagers, kids still need some guidance and shelter from the big things, like those people or influences that can cause them serious harm.

I would like to, quickly, comment on the software that I support, Parent Tools for AIM and Yahoo! Messenger. The reason I like these are because there is flexibility in them. The chat rooms are set up to be disabled by key words or phrases only. So if you don't want your child involved in any chat of a sexual or violent nature you can disable those rooms while still allowing them the chat experience with their peers. Also, chat features have to be manually disabled, they do not come that way by default. Probably the most controversial Parent Tools feature is the logging feature. Remember, this only logs conversations on the specified programs, it does not prohibit Internet use beyond that. There is potential for abuse when logging conversations, but it was created under the assumption that it will be used responsibly. This software doesn't have a license. After it is sold it is the property of the buyer to use it as they wish. For more information on Joe (the developer) and his programs please check out what's right with the fight or visit his website through my links listed on the right.

My goal with this blog is to inform parents of the potential dangers of the Internet and provide them with links to resources that have more info than I do regarding education and safety tips. I believe I can offer a unique, and perhaps less biased, opinion of the topic as I have passed my teen years, but am not yet into my parenting years. I grew up with the Internet. Also, I work in the Internet business and I'm fairly tech savvy. I will try to better establish my views on the subject in my future blog updates. Again, to clarify, I do not believe in spying on responsible, trustworthy kids. I do, however, think there are great uses in logging conversations when there are well founded suspicions that something is wrong. To me, it is the same as searching a child's room when there are well founded suspicions that the child is using drugs or is affiliated with a gang, etc. Please read over my previous entries for more detailed indications of when something is not right with your child online, including warning signs of sexual predators and gaming addictions.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Parent's Guide to the Internet

There's a site sourced by the US Department of Education that gives some good information for parents regarding their kids and the Internet. Parts of it are a little bit hoaky, but you have to consider the source. It's basically anything you need to know about the web including, but not limited to, safety tips. It talks about children as young as pre-schoolers using the Internet.

So, for more ideas and advice reference parents guide to the internet according to the Dept. of Education.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Inside the Mind of a Pedophile

So, I'm sure everybody has heard about Joseph Duncan, recently arrested, who "allegedly" kidnapped a brother and sister in Idaho. While he didn't meet them online, he did keep a blog which was last updated a mere two days before he "allegedly" kidnapped those kids.

I find this interesting for a couple reasons. First, it outlines what is going on in the mind of a pedophile, which is great for any parent. I mean how better to learn how to protect your kids then knowing how these people operate? Second, it just goes to show that anybody can get a blog. If you notice there are lots of comments on it (albeit some of which were posted after he was arrested, as this blog has definitely made its way around the blogosphere) and it was created on blogspot, which is one of the most popular blogging communities on the Internet. Any kid just searching through blogs could've landed on it and read through it.

I think its time to start coming up with some safeguards for blogs. I think they're a great idea (I should I keep 3 of them ;) ), but there's so much potential for kids to come across the wrong material or people. Some basic protection tips are to keep the computer in a common room in the house and become a subscriber to your kid's blog. Plus I posted previously on how to act on suspicions of your child being contacted by an online predator.

Well, that's all I have for now. I hope everybody had an excellent holiday weekend! I know I did between Busch Gardens, pool parties and fireworks. It was a nice reprieve from the daily grind. However I'm back to it now...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Happy 4th Everybody!!

I don't really have anything to report today. I just wanted to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday. I'm not sure how much I'll be online this weekend because Joe and I have outdoors plans. For the first time I can ever remember my entire family is out of town without me (which I guess is what happens when you're new in a job and haven't acrewed any leave yet), so he was kind enough not to leave me stranded. ;)

Until next time, have a blast!