Parents Internet Guide - Parental Controls

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

Friday, September 30, 2005

Safe Site for Teens

Parents, check out safeteens.com with your kids. The site offers guidelines for both parents and teens and gives advice without sounding like they're preaching. Also included are some cell phone safety tips. I'm also putting their link up in my links section for your future reference.

Give them a look over. See what they have to say.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Internet Safety Quiz

Is your child protected from Internet hazards? Are you sure? Take the Internet Safety Quiz for Adults to find out how secure you really are.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

StandUp! Against Cyberbullying

Experts in Internet safety tell parents its OK to snoop. Checking a kid's cell phone or computer usage is a good thing says The Empower Program, which is a national, non-profit organization who work to create safe schools and communities by stomping out all kinds of bullying. Unicel, a wireless phone service, has teamed up with Empower to create StandUp!, a speaking tour about the harms of cyberbullying. According to the speaker, using parental control software on your computer is essential. The most common ways children harass each other over the Internet is through blogs and IMs. Monitoring these mediums is necessary.

If you know your child is using AIM or Yahoo! Messenger, check out this monitoring software targeted specifically for those programs. It's a good place to start.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Online Predators Strike Again

This time in Illinois. 22- year-old Samuel Levitan is accused of raping at least 5 teenage girls from the area that he met through chat rooms on the Internet. Each of the girls agreed to go for a ride with him and he took them to his home and raped them. Investigators from the area believe that there may be more victims afraid to come forward.

Creeps like this prey on the insecurities of teenagers. They find a common interest with these young girls and talk to them about things going on in their lives. Some curious kids actually enter chat rooms with adult titles. Parents should know where their kids are online and how to get in out of these places themselves. They should also know the screen names of every person speaking with their children. Finally, the old fashioned rules still apply. If somebody new comes to pick up your children, make sure you meet them first.

Read the article.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Teens Spreading Hate Through Myspace

One 17-year-old boy posted one single question, "Who do you hate?" Over eight months the responses poured in totaling in 16 pages of 240 comments. This is a prime example of cyberbullying. It's not only teenagers partaking in the meanness, kids from middle school to college bully one another. See the whole story.

Kids need to learn etiquette online, just as they do offline. Comments like these don't go away. With search engines becoming more powerful many college admissions counselors and even employers will conduct searches on applicants. Is this the garbage that you child wants coming up associated with his/her name?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New Defense Against Cyberstalking

Computer Science researchers at Florida State University (FSU) together with Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) have come together over the creation of the predator and Prey Alert (PAPA) system. The FSU professors developed hardware and software prototype that is basically a "forensic toolkit" for the prosecution of cyberstalking cases. PAPA system allows a law enforcement agent to remotely shadow the victim online by communicating with the victim through a separate side channel and, if necessary, taking control of the victim's computer to interact with the cyberstalker directly. There is potential for the prototype to be released for commercial sale within the next few years. Check out the press release.

I think this is a huge step in Internet crime prevention. Cyberstalking is a rapidly growing trend and District Attorneys in most states have been pushing hard for its criminalization in the recent years. Cyberstalking is, basically, stalking via the Internet. For a more complete definition and discussion please see the wikipedia definition. Kids, many times, find themselves both the victims and pursuers of cyberstalking, which can quickly stem from cyberbullying. The last thing any parent wants is to have the police knocking on the door to arrest their child for an Internet crime the parents didn;t even know existed. That is why it is so important to know where your child is going online and with whom they are speaking.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Google Blog Search

Concerned about what kind of information your child is writing in the blog? Google has just launched its own blog search, though still in beta. The tool works the same way the Google search engine works, though it own searches through blogs. You can try searching your child's name, school, or any identifying information that you wouldn't want broadcast to the public. This is a good way to prove that anybody can find info on your child if they want it. Start searching at www.blogsearch.google.com.

Those living in the tech world find this advance by Google great. Since blogging has spread into political and business worlds it takes much less to find a blog by a popular author. However, with this new search it also takes much less to find your children and their online diaries. While they may claim that a blog is like a diary and shouldn't be read, the difference is that blogs are searchable and are seen by the public. I don't think there is anything wrong with using them, however, it is important to screen what kids are putting out onto the World Wide Web.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

IMing Gets Teens in Trouble

Mimmicking the soon to be released film Cry Wolf, five high school kids sent out death threats via AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). It was easy for the police to trace the messages back to the teenagers after they were reported. It seems that the whole thing was a hoax, however neither the school nor the police department are taking the threats lightly. All of the teens face charges. Read more.

Teenagers do crazy things like this all the time without thinking about the consequences. This is why it is important to know what your child is doing online. You wouldn't want them making death threats in person, whether real or imaginary, so why would you want them doing it online? It only results in the police banging on your door.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Take Some Advice from John Rosemond

John Rosemond is a family psychologist. Many parents out there may have heard of him as he is arguably the most widely read parenting authority. In one of his weekly newspaper columns he answered a question from a parent about how much freedom she should give her 11 and 14 year old children with regard to e-mail and instant messaging. His first response was not to give kids this privilege at all, but conceded that if it is already in place it would be difficult to take away. However, he claims that as a responsible parent randomly checking e-mails, IMs and visited websites is encouraged and any rebellious behavior from the children should be punished with the prohibition of Internet privileges for a said amount of time. I must say that I am inclined to agree with this. Read the column.

John Rosemond has his own website with all kinds of parenting information. Raising teenagers is no easy feat, I am sure (though I have no experience in the matter). He gives great advice and ideas and makes himself available by e-mail to all of his readers. I've added his link to my list for the benefit of my readers.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Cyberbullying Arrests Made

Two girls form West Haven, CT were arrested for harassment of another girl over the Internet. The bullies sent messages to the victim through chat rooms and e-mails, making the victim believe the harassment was actually coming from a 34-yr. old man. Police traced the messages back to the girls. Read the article.

As a parent its important to know that harassment of this nature is taken very seriously. Being arrested in high school is something that will follow these girls. They will have to admit to this crime on their college applications. Kids don't realize the long term effect of their actions a lot of the time. Parents really need to know where their kids are going and who they are talking with online. Also, at least knowing their e-mails addresses, IM usernames and blog accounts is important, even if you aren't reading their messages.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Couple Uses Their Own Children in Porn Case

How disgusting to use your own kids to distribute child porn throughout the Internet? The kids, aged 5-14, have been taken into protective services. An estimate of 17 videos were taken from the couple's home. Read the article.

I feel for these poor children who were unknowingly being tortured by their parents. If you or your children are ever sent child pornography through and instant messaging system or through e-mail, report it to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) immediately. Distribution of such images are illegal. For more information please follow my links to the right.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Difficult to Catch Maryland Internet Predators

The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of Richard J. Moore, a 38-year-old man who solicited a police officer whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. The Court claims that they could not uphold the conviction because the law says the offender must be soliciting a minor. Apparently, simply believing he was conversing with a minor is not illegal. Please read the article.

This is a sad circumstance. How are the police supposed to prevent these crimes? This man has now been released to go solicit another young girl. It seems to me that it's probably time to amend the laws and allow the police to catch these criminals before they start speaking with our children.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Another Child Porn Case

A retired police officer, Dennis Lee White, from Virginia plead guilty to transporting child pornography through his computer. He will be sentenced in December. As he was found out by an FBI agent he was charged and will be tried in Federal Court.

It's good to see that the FBI is diligent catching these creeps, but its disappointing to see that it was a police officer this time. It just goes to show that you can't really trust anybody over the Internet.

Find out more.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Lesson in Internet Safety

Riling said she will never forgive herself for not being more intrusive and vigilant about her 13-year-old niece's Internet use, but said her new purpose was to use the power of Christina's story to warn other parents.

Christina's case is probably one of the most publicly known of all Internet related murder cases to date. In 2002, 13-year-old Christina was strangled by 24-year-old Saul Dos Reis, Jr. while he was having sex with her in the back of his car. The two had met in an Internet chat room and exchanged many obscene e-mails before they met. Since that time, Christina's aunt (who was her guardian) has become a spokeswoman for Internet Safety. She warns other parents not to make her mistakes.

There's always something that happens that makes me relive the whole thing again," Riling said. "I wish I had known more about what goes on on the Internet, which I'll always have to live with."
Don't let this be you. Check into parental control software. Find out what your child is doing online. Be safe about the Net!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Coach Found with Child Porn

An Oregon basketball Coach, Rodney Andre Howard, was found with child pornography on his computer. He had already admitted to sending and receiving via e-mail. Howard was first discovered when his Internet Servive Provider, AOL, informed The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that child porn had been sent from his account. He is suspended from work until the after the outcome of the trial. Read the article. I am impressed at the diligence and attentiveness of AOL. If not for them Mr. Howard may be coaching basketball at a high school, trying to solicit teenagers there.

I wish everybody a safe and happy holiday! Please keep the Hurricane Katrina victims in your thoughts. Also, I wanted to point out that phishing scams are already popping up around the Net. Keep yourself from being duped. Read Brian Kreb's article to find out how. Please, go to the Red Cross.org to donate online safely.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

How Effective Are Parental Control Software Programs?

Computer Which tested six monitoring software programs and found none of them to be up to par as they let through pornographic and racist Internet sites, as well as one Website offering hacking codes. The worst of the bunch were MSN Premium and Norton Internet Security 2005 while Apple's Tiger performed the best. McAffee's Internet Security Suite performed better than both MSN and Norton yet they still only scored a mere 51% in tests. NetNanny, was another popular program that allowed porn and racist material through its software. Here is article 1 and article 2 from which this information has been pulled. When interviewed these companies all responded with the same thing, "Software isn't enough, parents need to be monitoring also."

Well, I agree with that statement, however it disappoints me that parents are paying for programs that aren't working as they are claimed to work. I did a little research myself and found the top four monitoring programs as rated by About.com.

I will also cite an article on About.com which discusses whether or not you should monitor your child's online activity. It offers and interesting perspective as well as other ways monitoring software has been used (i.e. such as to monitor a spouse). Monitoring has the potential to become much like big brother and I'm sure that none of us interested in going that far. Please read the article and decide for yourself the best way to protect your children on the Internet.