27 Sep Parental Control – Options Vary for Internet Restrictions
MADISON, WI – It’s 4 p.m., and do you know where your 16-year-old daughter is? Sure, you say, she’s at home from school, doing her homework. You wish. Chances are she’s probably taking advantage of the time you’re at work to visit all sorts of chat rooms, websites and to instant message her “friends,” including those she just saw an hour ago and those she has never met in person.
Unfortunately, as most parents now know, the Internet has matured at lightening speed. According to Joshua Finer, Internet safety expert and CEO of Software4Parents.com, one out of five kids has been sexually solicited online, and one out of four kids has been sent a picture of naked people or people having sex online.
Even if you’ve set rules on your children’s computer use, are you sure they are following them? How can parents get control of their children’s computer time? The best way is to have a plan that includes, at least,
Finer’s five tips:
1. Your children should never give out their personal information to anyone online. Make sure to tell them this includes their name, address, phone number or anything else used to identify them. Stress that people may pretend to be someone they are really not.
2. Talk to your children often about what they do and who they are talking with online. Tell them what you consider OK, such as chatting online with their friends you have met in person.
3. Do not keep a computer in your child’s room. This can create a sense of privacy, and they may be tempted to do things they shouldn’t online. Put their computers in public areas, such as the family room.
4. Help your child choose an appropriate screen name for chatting, e-mail and instant messaging. Choose one that doesn’t reveal names, sex, hobbies and that isn’t provocative.
5. Use technology to your advantage. Monitoring software helps you review your children’s Internet usage. Even if you don’t look at each and every email or instant message they send, you’ll have a good idea if they are making smart choices online.
Currently, a plethora of software exists to help parents manage their children’s Internet usage, as well as other options offered by internet service providers. It’s important to research all the options and come up with a solution that’s right for your entire family. Different capabilities include blocking children from certain websites, tracking which sites they visit and with whom they chat, blocking e-mail or chat of a certain nature, and setting browsing time limits.
Some Internet Service Providers (ISP) are now offering monitoring solutions for their customers. Among the most recent to add the capabilities is the partnership of SBC Yahoo!, which offers dial-up and digital subscriber line (DSL) service. Both types of customer will benefit from the new “enhancements,” which include the ability to set up accounts for each child, and tailor the security features for each. Each child can have separate web-browsing freedoms and also time restrictions. And if a child doesn’t like the restrictions, he or she can send a plea to Mom or Dad in the form of an online permission slip.
“The online permission slip allows the child to check what they’d like to access and send that to their parent,” said SBC Spokeswoman Kate Brennan. The parent can then give or deny the child access online. Also accessible online is a report card that shows parents what sites their children have been blocked from, Brennan said.
Charter Communications, which offers cable-modem-based broadband connections, has a deal with MSN8.
“We currently have a relationship with MSN whereby we market a co-branded version of MSN8 which includes parental control, among other things like junk mail filters, shared browsing, etc.,” said David Andersen, senior vice president, communications. “We will also be marketing ‘Charter featuring MSN Premium’ in the fourth quarter, which consists of a co-branded version of the next rev of MSN8. Our core product does not currently bundle in parental control as a standard feature although we are considering this as a potential addition to our core product in 2004.”
America Online is heavily marketing its AOL for Broadband service, which works with high-speed internet connections. The service has some parental controls, including it’s AOL Online Timer, which lets parents determine the number of hours their children can be on AOL – and when, including times of day. After each AOL session, AOL Guardian e-mails detailed “report cards” to the parent, with information about how their children are using the Internet so they can take immediate action, if needed.
Think all of this is a little too Big Brother-like for you and your kids? Consider this: on May 21, 2002 a child died. It was the first death of a child linked directly to an Internet predator. Taking a few precautions now and always communicating with your children could prevent a situation you would never think could happen to you.
Jennifer Braico is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Wisconsin Technology Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.