Playing safe

We live in the Internet age. Everyone and anyone is connected to the Internet, some more often than others as it becomes common place for mobile phones connected 24/7. In these changing times it is very easy to forget that, while the Internet is a wondrous place to be, it can also be dangerous…let me explain.

Many years ago while I was working at a local Nottingham ISP I was asked to go on a radio show to discuss the dangers that the Internet presents to the younger generation. Evan all those years ago people were aware of the dangers but they still needed to be reminded of what to watch out for. Now lets roll forward some 8 years to the Facebook, MySpace and MSN generation where you are considered strange if you don’t have a Facebook, MySpace or MSN account and to not be on the Internet makes you a ‘dork’*.

So is the Internet any safer now that it was back then? No.

What we are seeing more of very passive behaviour on the part of parents and the role that they *must* play in order to keep their kids safe on the Internet. Now that may seem like a harsh statement and I would like to think that most parents are sensible but many aren’t. Only today I heard that someone I know has just signed their son up to a free Live email account and then set them up with a Facebook account despite their son being below the age of 13 required by Facebook. Now we all know that there are kids out there below the age and the that is a fact but there are ways that this can be done *safely*, let me give an example.

Firstly if you wish to give your child an email account of any sort then you should setup the computer so that you get a copy of ANY emails that they get. This means that you can ensure that they are not talking to people that they shouldn’t be that could bring them to harm. Second, if you are going to set them up with a service like Facebook ensure that you set it up under an email address that is delivered to YOU not to the child. That way if someone wants to add them as a friend then you will get to know about it so that you can make sure that they do REALLY know them and they are not just added them for the ‘numbers’.  As adults there are a great many people that just anyone as a friend on Facebook as it is a ‘numbers game’ which is ok as we are mature enough to make that decision, but as a child then this *must* be policed by someone who is responsible. This does not even take into account ensuring that ‘safe surfing’ is taking place with kids.

The fact that someone in this day and age has setup an account without putting any measures in to place to ensure the child’s safety is really bewildering and disturbing to say the least. In our house we have an ADSL router which has built in content filtering to ensure that all of the children are able to surf the Internet safely without exposure to ‘unwanted’ content. I have also setup OpenDNS to ensure that whatever the filter in the router does not pickup then OpenDNS will get it. The children’s computers also run Interguard which allows me to monitor things that they do such as MSN, web mail as well as keystroke logging. This means that I can monitor things that they do without them knowing, not so I can play ‘god’ over what they do but so that I can be a responsible parent and ensure that they are safe. The last thing is, when old enough, they can go on Facebook but email notifications are sent to me or Jules so that we can make sure that they are not doing anything daft and the kids respect that.

I like to think that our children are quite ‘savy’ when it comes to computers and the Internet and they are but when they’re chatting on MSN they have no idea that the person they are talking to is really who they claim they are…that’s my job.

At the end of the day this is just my opinion for what it’s worth and as much as I would love it to be, the world is not perfect but you can be damn sure I will do all I can to make my kids worth perfect. As always I welcome you’re thoughts on this as opinions always vary.

– Rob


* not sure if the term dork still exists but it did in my day.

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