Protecting Your Child Online
A Review of internet protection software
Spector PRO 5.0
Operating Systems: Windows 98/NT 4.0 or above/2000/Me/XP
Monitors and records all instant messages, e-mail, websites, chats, keystrokes, and programs launched, and takes screen shots as often as once a second.
Blocks Internet access by user, date, time, or application.
Allows parents to limit the time that their children are online.
Unlike eBlaster, Spector Pro requires that users be at their home computer to get into their children’s records.
At nearly $100, it’s a bit pricier than some of its competitors.
Operating Systems: Windows 98/Me/2000 Professional/XP Home or Professional/NT 4.0 with SP4 or greater
Lets parents control how much time their kids spend online.
Filters websites and chats, and offers newsgroup blocking and monitoring.
Provides e-mail summaries of children’s online activities.
Lets parents customize preferences for each child’s age.
Offers a toolbar option that lets kids search the Internet without running into objectionable content.
Lets parents look at its list of permitted and restricted sites and words.
Prevents kids from giving out their names, addresess, and other personal information.
Although NetNanny blocks most objectionable language, according to a PC Magazine review, kids can still access some explicit images.
Parents who use this program need to be relatively vigilant when setting up their preferences.
Unable to filter content on AOL Instant Messenger or MSN Messenger.
Which program should you choose? If you listen to the critics, Cybersitter is the clear winner for sheer flexibility and effectiveness. PC Magazine has named Cybersitter its Editors’ Choice as the best filtering program. In the monitoring category, the magazine picked Spector Pro in both 2002 and 2004.Reviews are great guides, but also think about your needs when considering a program. Ask yourself what features you’d like the program to have, whether it works on your computer platform, how much it costs, and how easy it is to use.
And remember—no program, no matter how good, is 100 percent guaranteed. In 2001, Consumer Reports tested out several filters and found that nearly all of them failed to block one out of every five objectionable sites. Additionally, most programs mistakenly filtered educational or harmless content. Although most companies have updated their programs in the past three years, these problems persist.
Other Ways to Protect Your Kids Online
Even the best software program can’t replace a parent’s watchful eye. Just as you ask your kids where they are going when they leave the house, you need to know where they are going every time they venture online. Open communication is also essential, says Aftab. “Know that some sites will get through, so you need to talk to your kids and tell them what to do when things come through that they shouldn’t see.”
Here are a few tips for keeping tabs on your kids while they’re using the Internet:
When she is old enough to surf on her own, keep the computer in a common area, such as the family room, so you can keep an eye on her while she is online. If you can’t always be around to watch your child surf, regularly ask her about the sites she visits and check to see whether she’s had any strange or uncomfortable experiences while surfing.
If you suspect that your child has been visiting inappropriate sites, monitor the browser History on your toolbar for a list of her past visits.
Remind your child never to share any personal information online—that includes her name, phone number, address, birthday, or picture. Also warn her against setting up a face-to-face meeting with anyone she meets online.
Keep a list of kid-friendly sites handy. Netwise has collected a big list of educational and appropriate content at: http://kids.getnetwise.org/kidsites//. Alternately, you can use one of the kid-friendly portals as a launching pad for your children’s online activities. They include:
- Until your child is at least seven, surf with her or stay close by. Consider using one of the programs listed above to limit her access to sites that you approve of.
For more helpful child Internet safety resources, visit:
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