If you’ve got kids like I do, then you know the fear and paranoia that come across your mind when your child wants to get on the internet. Today, I thought I would talk about several ways to enforce kid-safe browsing, meaning making the computer stay within your pre-defined limits when it comes to internet websites and applications. This is more important now than ever as the internet has pervaded our lives more than ever. Even reputable sites like facebook or twitter have links to less-than-reputable content, often times placed there by advertisers without their foreknowledge. By following a few simple guidelines, you can have a safe computer for your kids to play on.
First off, placement of a computer is a big deal. Computers that kids are playing or even working on, for the older children, should be in a central location where the careful eyes of a parent can occaisionally grace the screen. This is very important. I don’t know that I will ever let my daughter take a laptop into her room; its just too isolated and seperated from the family living space, and its too easy to get into trouble. In my experience, desktop computers or laptop computers that are setup in living rooms or kitchens are much less likely to lapse into questionable browsing, simply for the fact that kids know they’re being watched by mom and dad.
A centrally-located computer is an obvious way to keep an eye on your kids’ computing, but it still requires parents that care what their kids are looking at enough to check on them periodically, like once every 15 minutes. The amount of time a child spends on the computer is likely to increase as we get more and more technically integrated. Another way to enforce kid-safe browsing is to limit the amount of time that a child is allowed on a computer. This can be done with a very high-tech tool: the stop watch. Jokes aside, newer operating systems will allow administrators (parents) to set time limits on user (kids) logins. This means, you can set a two hour limit for your child to use the computer, and also set a time from 9am to 10pm for them to be able to logon. You don’t want your child sneaking down in the middle of the night to get on the computer when you’re not around, do you? Then password protect the computer and enforce logon hours and time limits.
One last thing I would like to touch on is mobile browsing. If you’re at all concerned with your child’s internet activity, mobile smart phones are a no-no. The mobile smart phone of today is yesterday’s computer, with the same dangers and adult content available in an easy to carry package. Until kids are old enough to police themselves, which is probably never, I would not let a child have a smart phone. Smart phones can be iPhones, Android Phones, Windows Mobile 7 phones, or Palm Pres. They are too portable and too easy for a child to pull up into their room and even into bed. The risk is too great, but if you do decide to allow it, make sure you have some sort of history option where you can periodically randomly check your child’s browsing history on their phone. Taking these precautions can keep your children safe from internet predators, pornography and other objectionable content on the internet.
In the next part, I will deal with software and configuration solutions that can help protect your kids from internet danger.