Teaching Children Online Safety

Teaching children online safety, includes information about filtering software, family ISPs and websites concerned with child privacy online.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors
October/November 2000
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Parent with children searching online.
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Learn how to go about teaching children online safety.

You should be ready to address Internet issues with your children the same way you would discuss other problematic topics such as drugs, crime, sex and violence. In either case when teaching children online safety it is up to you when and how to do this, but you should at least be prepared, if not proactive, when the topic comes up.

The Internet itself can link you to myriad resources that address family and child safety concerns. There are alternative sites to use as your browses default home page — sites that review and recommend software that prevents undesirable content from being viewed — and even Internet services that provide a safe and secure browsing and e-mail experience.

Filtering Software

The first line of defense against "bad stuff" getting to your kids while they use the Internet is content filtering software programs that you buy and install on your computer. They automatically filter the content coming into your web browser. Check out www.netnanny.com, www.cyberpatrol.com, www.cybersitter.com and www.kidcontrol.com for their software and tips about Internet content filtering. Because new sites spring up on the Net every day, choose a software package like NetNanny that offers regular updates to their filtered site reference lists. You'll find that CyberSitter has a remote control feature, and Kid Control's ChatNanny has a chat logging feature that lets you spy on your computer's user-activities — it's not exactly privacy-enhancing, but these features could help you intervene to protect your loved ones.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer provides content control under Tools, Internet Options, Content tab. Through it you can configure different levels of graphic and verbal material allowed to be viewed with the browser. It also provides links to content rating services. IE's ratings list can be updated through www.icra.org or www.safesurf.com.

Family ISPs

There are at least four Internet service providers, in addition to Juno and AOL, that offer heavily filtered Internet access and e-mail accounts that can reduce your chances of encountering the wrong type of content. Check out www.familyclick.com, www.dotsafe.com,, www.family.net and www.family-net.org for starters to see if they provide service in your area.

Of course, if you have a computer-savvy child, or if his friends have spent more time at this than you have, all of the local filtering software and family-related ISP services can be defeated in a matter of minutes. You owe it to yourself to be prepared for whatever measures or discussions need to take place to set things right.


*Portal and Information Sites for Families and the Privacy-Concerned

There are probably dozens of family-friendly and informative Web sites that can offer a lot of advice you can use toward making your Internet experiences safe. These sites discuss terminology and chat groups, and review software and various Internet services you should know about. Check them out:

www.safesurf.com
www.safekids.com
www.safeteens.com
www.child-safe.com
www.familyinternet.com
www.safeplace.net
www.family.go.com
www.childpsych.com
www.eff.org
www.aclu.org
www.protectyourfamily.net
www.familyfriendlysearch.com
www.virtuocity.com/family/Index.cfm


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