Protecting Your Children On The Internet


If you are a parent, as am I, I think we can agree there is little else more important than keeping our children safe and protected. It's difficult enough keeping them safe from the unscrupulous people we read about in the news, but dealing with children and the Internet takes it to a completely new level.

Many young people find instant messaging and e-mail a convenient and fun way to talk with their friends. If you have children, like me, when they're not on the phone, they're talking with their friends on the Internet. We have very strict rules and guidelines about who they can talk with and for how long. We have given them detailed instructions on what to do when they receive e-mail from someone they don't know or receive an anonymous instant message.

Recently, someone close to me received a death threat via an anonymous instant message. The language this person used was so vulgar and explicit you would have thought it came from a prison inmate. Interestingly enough, the person at the other end was a child.

After significant investigation we determined this person was a school mate. They had received detailed information about the child including the child's instant messenger alias, their home address and color, and what type of cars the family drove. Can you imagine how scared this child and child's family was? Quite frankly, it was not only sad but sickening that another child could be so verbally brutal. Additional investigation revealed that the school these children go to were aware that this had been going on for quite some time. Other children had been receiving similar threats.

This particular event was all the result of several children speaking in a chat roam and one child in particular got upset about something that was said. That child contacted another child, who is known to be mean, and asked them to scare one of the other children. We got to the bottom of the whole mess and everyone felt a bit of relief.

It's very important to pay attention and, in some cases, monitor what children are doing on the Internet. It's for their protection and the protection of others. I'm sure I am going to get an ear full from privacy rights advocates on this one. Regardless, the safety of our children is one of the most important tasks a parent has.

If your children use e-mail and Instant Messaging on a regular basis you should;

1) Limit the number of people they can e-mail and message with;
2) Work with them to develop an approved list of friends;
3) Limit the amount of the time they spend e-mailing and messaging;
4) Make your presence known while they are e-mailing or messaging; and
5) If necessary install some sort of monitoring software to see what is going on in chat rooms.

Update: Shortly after writing this article, a 13 year old boy at a middle school in my area was arrested for e-mailing death threats to two teachers. In one e-mail he indicated he was planning on bringing a gun to school to kill a teacher. The other e-mail, sent to a teacher at a different school, indicated that he planned on targeting students as well. For further details please see the full article at South Florida's Sun Sentinel "http://www.sun-sentinel.com/ news/local/palmbeach/sfl-pcletter18feb18,1,216444. story?ctrack=1&cset=true."

For information on computer monitoring software take a look at WatchRight http://www.watchright.com/.

A good site to visit to learn more about protecting children on the Internet is www.protectkids.com. It's full of great information every parent should know. Other sites you may want to visit are http://www.isafe.org/, and Obscenity Crimes Reporting http://www.obscenitycrimes.org/.

About The Author
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Darren Miller is an Industry leading computer and internet security consultant. At the website - www.defendingthenet.com">http://www.defendingthenet.com you will find information about computer security specifically design to assist home, home business and small business computer users. Sign up for defending the nets newsletter and stay informed and empowered to stay safe on the Internet. You can reach Darren at mailto:darren.miller@paralogic.net or at mailto:defendthenet@paralogic.net
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