Parents Internet Guide - Parental Controls

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

Monday, October 31, 2005

Kids Get Away With More at Home

A recently published survey done by the Business Software Alliance shows that kids engage in riskier online behavior at home more than they do at school. The kids surveyed attributed this to the more stringent school computer use rules. Schools are more likely to use blocking software and enforce online safety rules. One reason for this is that students are much more likely to be under adult supervisions when using the computer at school as opposed to using it at home. The three most common "risky" behaviors described in the survey are downloading digital copyrighted works without paying for them, chatting with strangers and surfing inappropriate websites.

Please visit the Business Software Alliance's website for resources to help you talk with your children about safety and legal issues associated with the Internet. To read more about the survey please click here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Teen Blogging Stats

According to Perseus Development Corp. (a Web survey software provider):

  • About half of all blogs are authored by teens.
  • A majority of the top 15 sites visited by teens aged 17 and under in January 2005 were blogs or social networking sites.

According to Children's Digital Media Center at Georgetown University:

  • 2/3 of teenage bloggers provide their age and first name.
  • 60% offer their location and contact information.
  • 1 in 5 divulge their first name on their sites.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Responsible Netizen

Looking for more information on Internet safety? Check out the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use. The site offers

Effective strategies to assist young people in acquiring knowledge, decision-making skills, motivation and self control to in behave in a safe, responsible and legal manner when using the Internet and other information technologies.

The site offers publications and links to resources for problems such as cyberbullying. Check it out. Its going up in my links section.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Myspace Abduction

17-year-old, Monica Sharp met 57-year-old, Jeffrey Nichols through Myspace. Monica has been missing since September 17 from Richmond, VA and was last seen with this Nichols. Get the details from Perverted Justice.

Do you need more evidence that you should be monitoring your child's blog?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

4 Rules ALL Teen Bloggers Should Live By

  • Nasty comments and insulting photos have a way of finding their way to the target. If you wouldn't say something to the person's face, think twice about posting it. Think of it this way, its no longer a matter of he said/she said. When its found on the Internet, your name is attached to it.
  • Don't assume you won't be held responsible for something you copy from another source. Just read this article to see how one student got suspended for copying an image and placing it on his Myspace homepage.
  • The Internet is not private and information lives longer than you think. If you post comments about drinking, drug use or sexual activity, consider that it could be read by relatives, school officials, prospective employers and future girlfriends or boyfriends. From my own experience, my college when I applied, my current employer and my current boyfriend all searched for me over the Internet and found information about me (including my personal blog). It's that easy.
  • The more personal detail you put over the Web - photos, your real name, names of schools, hometown and friends - the more likely it is that strangers can identify you. Withholding your address and phone number isn't enough to ensure privacy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Massachusetts Man Caught in Teen Sex Bust

Lured by an undercover officer posing as a 15 year old girl, Robert DeMarco was arrested and charged with attempting to commit statutory rape, attempting to entice away a person under the age of 18 for unlawful sexual intercourse and attempting to disseminate harmful material to minors. Police arrested DeMarco after he attempted to meet what he thought were two 15-year-old girls he met online for a sexual encounter. There were numerous instant message conversions between him and the "girls" and one phone call with an undercover female deputy sheriff posing as one of the girls.

This is one more creep offline who, hopefully, will soon be behind bars. Read more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Is You Kid Web Wise?

Web Wise Kids is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating children about the dangers of online predators and showing them how to make wise choices online. To do this the have created a computer game entitled MISSING. The game is based on a true story of a teenager who was persuaded by an online predator to leave home and cross an international border in order to meet. In the game (designed for kids aged 11-15), kids become detectives so as to find the teenager before he disappears. In so doing, children learn about the methods predators use to harm children and at the end of the game kids are asked to create a personal Internet Safety Plan, which, basically, is a list of guidelines for the child to follow when s/he goes online.

The website has great information regarding family friendly sites, how to obtain the computer game, tips for Internet Safety and more. It will be up in my links section for your future reference. The game actually aided in the capture of an online predator in San Francisco. Definitely check out this site!

Finally, 7 rules for your children from Web Wise Kids:
  1. I will not tell a stranger who I am or where I live.
  2. Me and my parents are a team.
  3. I can say no.
  4. I will share e-mail from strangers with my parents.
  5. Strangers in chat rooms can be good or bad, but they are still strangers.
  6. Safe distance from strangers.
  7. My family and teachers care about me - bad things that happen on the Internet are not my fault.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yahoo! Regulates Chat Rooms

Yahoo! has stepped up to the plate. Until recently Yahoo! allowed users to create unrestricted chat rooms promoting sex between adults and minors. Titles of such chat rooms included "5-13 kiddies who love sex" and "Girls 13-16 for much older guys". With the help of law enforcement agencies Yahoo! has taken such chat rooms and down and revised their rules. Now Yahoo! will pre-screen all chat room names before publicly listing them, has made it easier for users to report child safety threats, eliminated teen category rooms and requires all users to be 18 and older. Read the article.

I'm surprised these rules were not established earlier, however I can't condemn Yahoo! as they have now implemented the necessary precautions. Hopefully when the smaller companies, such as Myspace, see this they will follow suit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Do You Know Where You Kids Are in Cyberspace?

Two teens lured a man to their house via the Internet with the promise of sex with a Hispanic woman. When the man got to the house the teens hit him over the head with a crowbar, robbed him, drove him out to the woods of Anderson County, South Carolina, stabbed him in the neck and left him for dead. The man was dragging himself along the side of the interstate. There is no word on his current condition. The two teens have been charged with assault and battery with intent to kill, kidnapping, armed robbery, and grand larceny.

Do you know what your kids are doing out in cyberspace? Read the article.

Monday, October 10, 2005

How to Check Your Kids on Myspace

As I was reading through news articles looking for a topic for today's update I noticed that so many local level newspapers are publishing articles about Myspace. I thought it might be helpful for parents to know how to navigate the site in order to find their children.

First, thing from the homepage, click the search link. It will be at the top of the page underneath the Myspace banner, this is called the top nav (short for navigation). From here I find the easiest way to search is to type in a name in the friend finder. You may have to try nicknames as well, when searching. If this doesn't work you can try looking for the child's school under the classmate finder or their interests under the affiliate finder. Look through the results until you find your child's profile and click on the link. This will take you to your child's Myspace page. If you are not a registered member this is all the information you will be able to see. If you would like to view all of your child's photographs, search through their friends list, read their blog, or anything you need to become a member. It is a simple process and you are not required to upload photographs or reveal your address. Also, your last name will be suppressed, unless you otherwise specify. Once you become a member you are free to search through your child's profile. There may be material that you cannot access if you are not added to their friends list (only they can add you), but it will give you a good idea about the kind of information your child putting out into cyberspace.

I hope this helps some. Also, Myspace officials are willing to work with you to make the site a safer place. They are available by email and will automatically delete any profile posted by someone under the age of 16.

Friday, October 07, 2005

How To Tell Your Children They Are Being Monitored

First, express to them that Internet safety is a family concern and the software is installed for the protection of everyone. Stress that the child is not being singled out. It is important to let the child know before hand that they are being monitored as the child may feel like they are being betrayed if they are confronted with the information after the fact. In order to receive passwords from children or as an explanation for why you are not giving children certain passwords, you can use identity theft as an excuse, explaining that security of any kind affects the entire family.

If you are reluctant to "spy" on your children you may want to consider installing monitoring software anyway because the software will keep an accurate record of where your child has been online and whom they have spoken with. This is important if a crime occurs because you will have records to hand the authorities. This information could save a life, catch a predator or even keep your child out of trouble with regards to cyberbullying or piracy. Also keep in mind that there are parental control programs that limit the amount of time your child spends online, deny access to certain websites and chat rooms and keep certain individuals from contacting your child through email and instant messengers. So, even if you do not want to "spy" on your child, you can be sure they are being safe online.

Lastly, do not let the child set up the parental controls. If you are uncomfortable with this process notify technical support for the product you have purchased and they can walk you through the process. Also consider contacting a support center, such as the Geek Squad, who are certified and may have a quicker response than some software specific support techs.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

British Mother Taking on ISPs

Carina Stephenson committed suicide at the beginning of this year after making a suicide pact and finding information online about how to do it. While her parents had monitoring software on her computer, Carina knew how to override that software by installing software of her own. Now, her mother is trying to get legislation passed forcing ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to become proactive in preventing certain material from getting into the hands of children. In the interim she's suggesting that ISPs regularly send statements detailing which websites have been visited on a particular account. The name of the monitoring software the Stephenson's were using is not mentioned and neither is the name of the software Carina installed to override it. Read the article.

Check out some links to ratings of monitoring software:

  • PC Magazine rated IamBigBrother, PCTattletale, eBlaster and Spector Pro with and editor's choice of Spector Pro.
  • About.com rated software for younger children and older children and contains links to all of the rated software programs.
  • TopTenReviews is another good place to start.

Remember, no matter what you decide for monitoring software it will never be enough. Parents need to be proactive in learning about what their kids are doing online. No software program will ever replace a parent.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Four Ps Regarding Children and the Internet

They are Predators, Privacy, Porn and Piracy. Here's how to protect against each:

Predators: Keep the computer in a common room in the house. Learn who all the names are on your child's instant messenger buddy list. Screen all emails going in and out of the house. You monitoring or blocking software that records conversations as this make become useful later on.

Privacy: Check any online profiles or blogs that your child may have to be sure they are not revealing any personal information about themselves. Do Google searches of their names to find any occurrences of their name being published online and find out what information is published. If necessary contact Webmasters and/or your Internet Service Provider to have private information about your child removed from websites.

Porn: Install monitoring and/or blocking software that prohibits particular websites and chat rooms from being accessed. Keep the computer in a common room and set time limits, as often children use the computer late at night, when parents are asleep in order to access adult material.

Piracy: Learn about peer to peer sharing sites, whose purpose is, generally, to distribute pirated material and block those sites if necessary. Disable any file sharing programs your child may be using such as Kazaa or Limewire. Explain that, although something is available on the Internet, it does not mean that it can be taken without paying. This is the same as stealing and is punishable by law.

Monday, October 03, 2005

How to Raise Digital Kids

Basic ideas every parent needs to know according to the "Internet Mom", Robin Raskin. Raskin is the former editor of both PC Magazine and Family PC and served on the Internet commissions during the Clinton administration. Here are the five most important things every parent should know about the world wide web:
  • Cyberbullying: When kids are online, in e-mails, chat rooms or using instant messaging, they often think they are anonymous and so feel free to say extremely cruel things to each other. This includes real life examples such as kids voting for the ugliest girl in school, calling a classmate a whore, claiming a teacher is gay and threatening to beat someone up.
  • Messages have staying power: Many kids don't realize that what the e-mail or even instant message doesn't just disappear. It leaves a physical record that gets passed on from kid to kid. This concept is true for blogging as well. Kids think that everything is private so they say and send things rashly that, potentially, can be found by somebody else later on.
  • Finding personal information: Most families know the rules about not giving out personal info online, but they don't realize that computer predators can sometimes learn enough from IMs, cell phone messages and blogs to figure out where to find a child. People who are using the Internet are often not who they say they are and infiltrate an IM circle and try to set up meetings. Many parents are finding them facing problems such as these with sites like facebook and myspace.
  • Copyright issues: While there's been a lot of talk about lawsuits in the music industry for downloading songs, parents are often unaware of just what their kids are taking from the Internet. Just because something is on the Internet doesn't mean that it is free. Kids can get in trouble for downloading music, movies or other peer-to-peer files of property that they haven't paid for the right to use.
  • Internet use away from home: Parents may have done the right thing by refusing to allow a kid to have a computer in the bedroom, behind closed doors, but they need to remember that kids don't have to be home to access the Internet. That's why parents need to prepare them for what they might find and prepare them for how to deal with it.

For more information read up on Robin's site, which I will have posted in my links section.