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The Kids Are Online: How to Keep Them Safe

by on March 03, 2011
in Family and Parenting, Computers and Software, Computer Safety & Support, Kids, Tips & How-Tos :: 3 comments

woman and girl with computerOn Monday my nine-year-old daughter asked if she could borrow my iPad to do her music homework. She explained that her assignment was to listen to at least five minutes of classical music and her teacher had suggested the kids find something on YouTube.

YouTube? The idea of her browsing around YouTube on her own was out of the question. So we found something together—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik.

These days every parent has to teach his or her child how to navigate our very connected world. According to a recent survey by Intel, kids on average start using desktop computers at age 5½ and a laptop at 7½. So when do parents need to have the tech equivalent of the birds and the bees talk with their children? I consulted child psychologist Dr. Scott A. Roth to find out.

Dr. Roth suggests having the first conversation in kindergarten. Many kids are exposed to computers in schools at that age and they’re fully capable of browsing to their favorite sites. One of the biggest concerns should be if and how the site offers your child the ability to interact with others. The key at this age, says Dr. Roth, is to be in control of what your child can encounter.

NetNanny Mac

NetNanny for Mac

So how do you set up safeguards for your kids? You can begin by creating a separate account on your computer for your child and setting up the parental controls that are built into the Windows and Max OS X operating systems. They cover which programs can be used, the time of day the computer can be used and the content or age ratings for games. If you let your child access the Internet, you’ll want to add a program that can filter web content and generate activity reports, like Bsecure Online ($49.95 at bsecure.com), NetNanny ($39.99 at netnanny.com) or Norton Online Family Premier($29.99 per year at norton.com).

According to Dr. Roth, the next phase starts around 8 or 9 years old, when kids are more socially in tune with what other kids are doing. He says that it’s important to talk about what’s appropriate in a text message or online, and to communicate the risks; once words are out there, it’s hard to take them back. Dr. Roth counsels his patients that if they can’t look someone in the eyes and say it, not to say it. Not bad advice at any age.

Then as kids begin puberty and start developing relationships with the opposite sex, you need to set new ground rules. The technology available today takes away the natural anxiety of approaching someone you’re interested in asking out. Plus kids don’t necessarily understand the potential risks of their actions. A middle-school-age girl may not grasp that the inappropriate picture she sent of herself to her boyfriend would be forwarded to his friends and friends of his friends.

It’s important to not only set limits and enforce them, but explain your reasoning. At this point, parents should consider reading their kid’s email and social networking pages. It does intrude on the child’s privacy, but digital messages are out there—somewhat in the public domain. If you can read them, so can a lot of other people.

Monitoring your child’s communications can also clue you in to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is most common in middle school, but can happen earlier. Dr. Roth explains that the fear and isolation is the same as with regular bullying, but in cases of cyberbullying it follows the child home, which can cause them to feel there’s no safe haven.

Finally around 16 or 17, you need to let go. Let them know you trust them to be appropriate without your supervision. Your conversations don’t have to stop, but reading their Facebook page and other monitoring should.

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Free effective content filter for home

From Jason C. on June 07, 2011 :: 11:18 am

An effective and free content filter for your home network can be found at OpenDNS.com

I had previously tried some of the installed solutions but we experienced performance problems.  The OpenDNS filters the content before it even reaches your house.

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Here is my recommendation for

From Mina on December 28, 2011 :: 10:01 am

Here is my recommendation for software that is used to keep kids safe online. http://www.goldlimiter.com

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Have a Window into your child's digital World for FREE!

From Hannah Masters on March 16, 2012 :: 11:16 pm

When I say “BULLY” what comes to mind?

We are all familiar with the typical stereotype of a “BULLY”, we draw from our own experiences, movies, TV shows, and nightmares. Chances are a clear picture comes to everyone’s mind when they think of a “BULLY”. Equally true is that even as adults we are still dealing with “BULLIES”. This is something we have all had to deal with and handle. Part of growing up.
When we were little the “BULLIES” met us on the playground, in the bathroom, or on the dreaded BUS! There were just a few of these kids roaming the halls, everyone knew who they were and to if possible steer clear. Often, the teachers knew who they were as well, and were able to intervene on occasion. We were able to escape the whole ordeal when we went home, or had a weekend. This gave us time to regroup, heal, and live to fight another day.
Flash forward to 2012…the World has changed. In fact, we have a NEW WORLD to explore called the Internet. Like any new undiscovered World, the Internet is full of wonder and excitement. It is also full of danger. Our children are the first generation of children that have grown up in this NEW Digital World! As many of you already know, they are embracing it and often know more about it by age 6 then we will ever know. They speak the language, know the customs, traditions, and are very comfortable using technology. Their brains are literally wired differently than ours, like any culture we are dealing with a generational gap. Our children are growing up fundamentally differently then we did. This causes some difficult issues to arise that our children are dealing with and we don’t have a reference point from which to help them. Case in point…“BULLIES” today.
When I say CYBER BULLY what comes to mind? Chances are it is a little tougher to conjure up an image. Many parent’s are at a loss, because we have never had to deal with a CYBER BULLY when we were growing up. BULLYING has changed in 2012, because our children are so connected via technology (the average teen spends 1 out of every 4 waking hours Online) they can literally be BULLIED 24/7. As if that weren’t bad enough, the instances of BULLYING have gone through the roof. 160,000 students miss school everyday because of BULLYING. 6 out of 10 children say they have been CYBER BULLIED, yet only 4 out of 10 tell a parent. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like our schools have become a WAR zone. CYBER BULLIES are using psychological torture and many are too immature to know how damaging that can be to a young person. This issue is going to continue to get worse, until we as parents get engaged and act now! We know we need to have the sex talk, and the drug and alcohol talk, but we need to be having the tech talk. Knowing what is going on in our child’s digital world is something every parent needs to know. With 6 out of every 10 children being cyber bullied, chances are your child is being hurt by this and you may not even know about it.
Now that you know the difference, talk to your children early and often. Make sure you have the user name and passwords to all social networking sites they are using. Let them know you are going to have their back, even in this New Digital World. That there are dangers that they need to be aware of and you will confront those dangers together. If you would like access to a FREE tool that I use that gives me a window into the digital world of my two boys go to go.abeanstalk.com/Hannah

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