Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SafeWeb - Safe Websites for Kids

Nowadays children spend a lot of time online. Parents face a new reality. They have to protect their children in a virtual world. In order to that the most important thing for parents is to show an interest in their kids Internet activities. Parents should be Internet savvy and be involved in their children online lives.

One way to do that is to offer children safe and interesting websites that they can enjoy. You can check - SafeWeb Directory website that offers safe entertaining website for kids. You can find there safe websites for kids organize by categories. You can also suggest a safe site for kids and contribute to the directory and to the effort of making the Web safe.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Online Predators – How to Protect Your Children on the Internet

Online communication is an important aspect of the Internet.

Online communication can be established on the web by various tools, all falling under the generic name - social software.

Social software covers a range of software and technologies used by Internet users to interact with each other. It covers different means of online communication techniques such as text messaging, voice communication and video in diverse Internet environments. Social software includes: email, IM (=Instant Message), P2P (=Peer-to-Peer networks), newsgroups, chatrooms, forums, blogs, social network services, virtual worlds etc.

When you use online communication you have the ability to choose how you want to present yourself in a specific situation. Online communication allows you to be open about who you are, be anonymous or make up a new persona. This aspect has a major affect on the authenticity of online relationships.

Anonymous online communication holds serious risk factors for children. They can easily become victims of abuse by individuals communicating with them due to lack of mature judgment skills. Sometimes they are not able to interpret the nature of the relationship correctly and can be misled, bullied, abused or fall victim to scams and ploys.

Child predators take advantage of the anonymity in online communication and target unsuspecting children.

In order for parents to protect their children from such predators, they should become involved in their children's web activities and learn how to recognize a problematic online relationship.

How Do Child Predators work?

Child predators use the anonymous nature of online communication in order to contact children and gradually seduce them into an online relationship. This relationship might end in sexual abuse.

They use various forms of online communication, such as, IM, chatrooms, forums, newsgroups, and virtual worlds to target potential victims.

Child predators invest a lot of effort in targeting and seducing children into a relationship. They often pose as children. They are knowledgeable in children's popular hobbies and interests. They seduce children by giving them attention, affection, understanding, kindness and sometimes gifts. They try to target vulnerable kids who crave for attention and affection.

Who Is Vulnerable?

All children that use the Internet are at risk. It is more likely that children will be exposed to unsuitable material than encounter an online predator, but the outcome of such encounters is so severe that parents can not be indifferent to this issue. Although all children are at risk, young adolescents are the most vulnerable age group due to the specific characteristics of this age group. Children in this age group usually have good technological and language abilities that allow them to surf freely without adult help. They are frequent users of social software, such as, email, IM (=Instant Message), P2P (=Peer-to-Peer networks), newsgroups, chatrooms, forums, blogs, social network services and virtual worlds

On the other hand, they lack the maturity and experience to help them understand the content that they encounter when surfing. They can easily misinterpret an online relationship, especially one which engages an adult with ulterior motives.

They want to be free of their parents’ control and to gain respect as grown-ups.

They explore their sexuality and have the desire to socialize.

They are in the rebellious phase of their lives and try to establish relationships outside the family. Child predators are well aware of these facts and exploit them.

Victims of child predators might be:

  • Seeking attention and affection.
  • New on the Internet scene and unaware of web ethics.
  • Lacking in social skills in the real world.
  • Unpopular in their social circle.
  • Rebellious.
  • Confused regarding their sexual identity.
  • Na├»ve and unsophisticated in comparison to their age group.

What Can Parents Do to Protect Their Children?

  • Show an interest in your children's Internet activities. Nothing can be as effective as good communication when discussing means to protect them in the cyber world. Don't be judgmental. Try to understand their experiences and understand their frustration expressed against your efforts to manage their Internet use.
  • Be a role model. Direct your children to appropriate websites that could be of interest to them. Teach your children web ethics and explain to them about the threats exist on the Internet.
  • Become Internet savvy. If you have knowledge about services and applications that are available on the Internet, you will be more effective when guiding your children.
  • Supervise your children when they use the Internet. If you have young children, make sure that the PC your children are using is in a family space.
  • Define clear guidelines for your children for Internet use. You can define an Internet use policy. Place the use policy near the PC that they use to keep the rules visible at all times.
  • Much in the same way you educate your children not to talk to strangers in the real world, educate them not to communicate with strangers online. Instruct your children not to answer IM or emails from people they don't know.
  • Young children should not use social software such as: chatrooms, IM, newsgroups, forums and so on. The risks far outweigh the benefits. As for young adolescents and adolescents, make sure that they only use monitored children's chatrooms, newsgroups or forums. Instruct your children never to leave the public chatroom area. (Chatrooms usually offer the option of a private chat were the conversation is not monitored and can not be seen by others).
  • Don't allow your children to meet with Internet friends in person without your approval and supervision.
  • Don't allow your children to use a private email account. Let them use the family account or an alias you have created for them in order for you to monitor the incoming and outgoing emails.
  • Help your children to create a safe username or nickname in the social software tools that they use. A safe username/nickname should not reveal personal information, gender or age.
  • If your children use the Internet in unsupervised places such as, libraries, school or friends' houses, check the security measures that are enforced at these places.
  • Instruct your children never to give away personal information online without your approval.
  • Instruct your children not to upload personal photos to the web without your approval.
  • Instruct your children not to accept photos or files from strangers without your approval.
  • Encourage your children to let you know if they encounter any strange behavior or behavior that caused them an uncomfortable feeling. Instruct them on what to do if they encounter such behavior. For example, turning off the PC and notifying a parent.
How Can You Recognize If Your Child Was Targeted by an Online Predator?

Your child may:

  • Withdraw from family and friends.
  • Seem depressed and moody.
  • Be aggressive towards members of the family. Child predators try to emphasize problems that the child has at home which can cause an aggressive behavior.
  • Spend a lot of time online, especially in chatrooms.
  • Have pornography on the computer. Child predators often send pornography to children.
  • Try to hide his/her Internet activities from you. For example, Opens a private email account, hides the computer screen or shuts down the PC when adult approaches.
  • Spend a lot of time on the Internet at friends' houses in order to avoid your supervision.
  • Receive presents from people you don't know.
  • Receive emails from people you don't know.
  • Receive phone calls from people you don't know. Child predators sometimes try to seduce children to engage in phone sex.

If you have suspicions, don't hesitate to confront your child about it. Emphasize again the guidelines for safe web surfing to your child. You can also monitor your child Internet activities by using Internet Parental Control software. If you choose to do so without the child's knowledge, be aware that it can result in a loss of trust between you and your child.

If all the safety measures you have tried don't work and you find out that your child is a victim of a child predator or in initial contact with one, the most important thing is not to blame the child. Always remember that the blame is on the offender.

Immediately Contact –

· Your local law-enforcement agency.

· CyberTipline at www.missingkids.com (1-800-843-5678) – This tipline is managed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which has representatives from the FBI, the U.S. Customs Service (USCS), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at its headquarters. You can report incidents of child sexual exploitation, including child pornography, online enticement of children for sexual acts, child prostitution, child-sex tourism, and child sexual molestation.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Simple Rules For PC Protection

Following there is a link to an article I have published in ezinearticles.com. The article provides ten simple rules that will enable you to protect your PC and privacy when surfing the web.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

General Guidlenes For Children Internet Use

The Internet exposes children to a whole new world which can contribute greatly to their education and can be very enjoyable. The Internet is a virtual world that represents the good and the bad of the real world. When our children surf the Internet they are exposed to both. The growth in Internet popularity is followed by a growth in immoral and criminal activities on the web. Hackers, crackers, web bullies, identity thieves, child predators all of them and more are out there in the cyber world.

In the same way we put boundaries for our children in the real world we should do so in the cyber world. Of course in a virtual world with no physical boundaries and where the authenticity of communication is questionable it is very hard.

In order to protect our children and educate them to safe and productive Internet activities we should become Internet savvy and get familiar with our children's Internet experience. It is not enough to trust our children in the hands of parental control products. These products can give added value only if they are joined with educational efforts and involvement in the child's Internet activities.

To ensure children safety on the web it is important to define clear guidelines regarding Internet use. Every family has its guidelines for what is considered to be appropriate behavior. This also applies to Internet usage. These guidelines can be adjusted for each child in the family based on different factors, such as age and maturity level. That said, there are general recommendations for children Internet use, that if followed can minimize the risks that children encounter when surfing.

General Guidelines:

  1. Keep the communication channels with your child open. Show an interest in your child's Internet activities. Supervise your child when surfing the Internet. It is important to try to understand your children experience when surfing the web, in order for you to guide and assist them.
  2. Be a role model to your child. Constantly talk with your child on what is right and what is wrong when surfing the web.
  3. Become Internet savvy. If you have knowledge about services and applications that are available on the Internet, you will be more effective when guiding your children. Sit with your children when they are surfing and try to learn as much you can about their habits. If you feel you don't have enough knowledge you can use this website and other Internet security websites (see www.In3Go.com - Helpful Links ) in order to gain more knowledge and confidence. In addition, you can also talk with other parents.
  4. Explain to your children about Internet threats they may encounter when using the Internet and suggest suitable responses.
  5. Create a list of suitable websites. Give your children a list of websites that you find suitable for their age and that may interest them. Update this list on a regular basis with new websites in order to keep your kids interested. Once in a while, check if the websites you have selected are still suitable.
  6. Make sure that the PC your child is using is in a family space , so you can supervise them.
  7. Define clear guidelines for your children regarding Internet use. Different families may have different guidelines, but it is important that your children are aware of what you expect from them. Define the guidelines according to the child's age group (see www.In3Go.com - Internet Use By Age ) . You can also define an Internet use policy that your child will be obligated to (see www.In3Go.com - Internet Use Policies ).
  8. Instruct your child not to give away private information online. Private information may include: name, last name, home address, email address, home phone number, parents' work phone number or place of work, school, passwords etc. This private information should not be exposed on any of the online communication tools that the child is using, such as: email, IM(=Instant Message), chatrooms, forums, virtual worlds etc.
  9. Help your children to create a safe username. If your children encounter websites which require using a username or a nickname, help them to create a nickname that will not reveal private information, gender or age. For example, never use year of birth in a nickname which can reveal age ("Sara1995").
  10. Supervise upload of personal photos. Instruct your child not to send or upload to the web personal photos or family photos without adult approval.
  11. Encourage your children to let you know if they encounter any strange behavior or behavior that caused them an uncomfortable feeling, when they surf the Internet.
  12. You can use parental control tools and products that filter and/or monitor Internet surfing in order to control your children's Internet activities (see www.In3Go.com - Parental Control Products).
  13. Install and use firewall and anti-virus programs that protects the PC from installation of malicious software.