Today’s blog is brought to us from Gabriel Bousquet, who is a winner of our Pass the Rock Contest. The topic is protecting children online.
Throughout my 7 years in business I have been approached by many parents who are worried about their Childs “online health”. I have compiled a few basic pointers to help guide parents through this murky and sometimes treacherous water. I have also posted answers to some of the more common questions I receive. These answers are a combination of my experience, lots of studying as well as procedures outlined and approved by the OPP Cyber Crimes department.
Tips for healthy computer use:
Use Common Areas.
I can’t stress this one enough. Always keep the computer in a common area (living room, kitchen) where anyone walking past can see what is on the screen. If you child has a laptop, tell them they can only use it in these common areas.
While it is better to not have a password at all, if you child wants to have one (ie: doesn’t want siblings reading their journal) make it a password of your choosing. Many newer laptops have built in fingerprint scanners that can have multiple fingers programmed so only you and your child can have access to that computer. It is recomended that your child know and understand that you have full access to their computer at all times.
Give them their own account:
All modern operating systems allow each user to have their own “profile” where they can keep their own files. They can even customize it with their own wallpaper and icons. There are several types of accounts though; some allow for the users to have more control over the computer then others. Setting your child up with a “Standard User” account will stop them from being able perform certain potentially dangerous operations like installing new software or disabling content restrictions.
Enable Parental Controls:
Most modern operating systems (including Microsoft Vista and Windows 7) include Parental Controls that you can assign to your child’s profile. This enables you to restrict access to certain programs, ban games over a certain ESRB Rating and it can even restrict access to the computer at various times defined by you. If you want more powerful restrictions and monitoring capabilities, there are third party programs like Netnanny or Spector Pro.
Warn Them About The Dangers
Many parents skip this step as they don’t want to scare their kids but the truth is, this conversation should be no different than the “Don’t talk to strangers” conversation. Letting them know some of the risks on the net can help them stop suspicious behavior and let them report it to you.
All that being said, it is mainly about finding a healthy balance. You know your child and you know what they are like. Some children need more supervision than others but following at least these simple steps will go a long way to ensuring all of your surfing experiences will be happy and incident free.
If you would like to research this topic further, here are a few websites you can visit for more in-depth conversation. They also cover more topics like Cyber Bullying, Chat Room Safety and Sexting.