February 27, 2007 10:03 AM PST

Kids' safety online: Share your suggestions

In the online generation gap between kids and their parents, it's the youngsters who always seem to have the upper hand.

They're the ones for whom instant messaging, and IM lingo, are second nature. They're the ones who've come of age with MySpace.com, Facebook and the ever newer social-networking sites. YouTube would be a much lonelier place without them.

A lot of parents, meanwhile, haven't progressed much beyond TurboTax and e-mail.

So what's a grown-up to do when the younger generation seems almost fated by nature to be one step (or more) ahead? Do you, Mom and Dad, have a handle on what little Jack and Jacqueline are doing online and, just as important, how to deal with their activity?

CNET News.com would like to hear from you about the steps you take to keep your children safe online, to stay abreast of what they're doing and who they're chatting with.

We'd like you to post your stories, and your advice, to our TalkBack section at the end of this article. Then, in the near future, we'll summarize the replies and give a recap in another News.com story.

If recent studies are any indication, the advice will be well received. Elementary school children can spend nearly 4 hours a day online when not at school, and high school students can spend more than 5 hours, according to national education foundation Cable in the Classroom. Meanwhile, about one-third of parents surveyed by research firm Harris Interactive said they're not confident about how to teach their children to use the Internet safely and responsibly--even as virtually all said they've turned to Web content filters, monitoring software or advice from other adults.

And nongeeks take note: Even Microsoft's Bill Gates limits the time his daughter spends at the computer.

See more CNET content tagged:
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Keeping Kids Safe
I myself use two programs...the free Windows Family Safety to filter out unwanted sites. And Spector Pro, to capture keystrokes and screen shots. I monitor the logs now and then but also learn to trust them. We only access the logs when checking up on questionable behavior.
Posted by brianwolters (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have a radical concept.....
Keep the computer in a central location and monitor your children's usage. Worked for both my sons.
Posted by lmr2020 (41 comments )
Link Flag
As much as you think you can block something the kids can get around it. I've been chatting online since I was 10; I'm 26 now. I used to hang around on IRC where you will find every kind of person on there and who knows the age of the person asking for a/s/l. My parents never knew this stuff but I knew when someone asked me to meet them somewhere or that they would buy me a plane ticket to go to NY with them that you should say no. Parents should teach their kids to ask any questions about something they see and not punish them for it. Sometimes it's just curiosity and sometimes you just end up someplace. Don't be afraid to drag a computer into the living room where everyone can see what is going on. It's better for them to be angry at you for that then end up as some statistic in the news.
Posted by chuchucuhi (233 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So you wasted your childhood chatting with perverts on IRC
That's really sad.
Posted by vm019302 (85 comments )
Link Flag
Put It In Writing!
I implore parents to compose and use a contract specifying rules and expectations for your child as long as he or she is a denizen of this "MySpace Generation." Part of the problem of the internet and popular social networks specifically is the nebulous nature of it all, including what role you should play in monitoring your child. But a solid contract that outlines your own Terms of Use is well within your rights (in fact it is your responsibility) as a parent of one of today?s e-teens. Plus, when your child violates an agreed upon tenet, there can be no arguing. I offer a sample contract in my new book, GENERATION MYSPACE!
Posted by Dulkrazu (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE: Put It In Writing!
Wow! That was some plug! Did you think of "Generation my space"
and "e-teens" all by yourself?
Posted by dadsgravy (157 comments )
Link Flag
How to Keep Kids Safe
You simply have to keep an eye on them. We have a lot of success stories from our customers who use our PC Tattletale Internet Monitoring software. Once they can see exactly what their kids are saying in chat rooms, they can take appropriate action.

Great topic.

- Bryan
Posted by bfleming98 (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Translation: "Buy our sh!t"
Dude - take your spam somewhere else, plz.

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
4 step program
1. Teach your children right from wrong. Don't rely on society or schools to do it for you

2. Educate your children about the various perils that exist on the 'Net and tell them what to do if they come across it

3. Snoop, monitor, and keeps logs of your children's activities. Yes it's ok to snoop and to monitor.

4. Keep those logs archived in case, God forbid, something does happen to your child. It could prove very valuable for law enforcement
Posted by Inetsec (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
5th step
Educate yourself and quit thinking that you live in la la land or some Utopian society. Bad stuff happens in plain sight every day. Just look at todays news. Now what do you think happens everyday in a realm where everyone thinks they are anonymous?
Posted by Inetsec (40 comments )
Link Flag
Great "Steps"!
It's all proactive (vs. reactive) parenting. I raised my nine-year-old in such a way that this is not (yet) an issue. She is honest and trustworthy, very smart and very open with us. I tell her the same rules to being out in public are the same as on the internet: never alone, never with strangers, never without knowing where she is and what she's doing.
Posted by sirjakeyjake (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
safe site
StupidVideos (www.stupidvideos.com) is a safe place for kids to watch video online. StupidVideos filters all content published to the site to ensure its PG-13 rating. The site has a conservative stance on profanity, nudity, gratuitous violence and copyright infringement.
Posted by schwartzmegan (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
and it has the perfect name
Posted by mbenson111 (14 comments )
Link Flag
and it has the perfect name
Posted by mbenson111 (14 comments )
Link Flag
against spying programs
Why not just trust your kids? Why do you have to be so paranoid? I think that programs who go into teen's lives and watch what they do are major privacy breaches into the teen's lives. Besides, there are sites all over the internet explaining how to hack spyprograms, people who feel just like myself. So save yourself the trouble.
Posted by noname7654 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Becuase my head is not in the sand
I totally understand your point of view, but it's not your child I'm worried about. It's the predator. Brain washing and psychological shaping have been around since the dawn of humans.

As I said in my earlier post, you do not live in a Utopian society. There ARE people out the trying to get to your children, you, or anyone else they can get there hooks into.
Posted by Inetsec (40 comments )
Link Flag
We don't have home Internet or cell phones
My kids haven't asked for them, and I can't imagine why they would want them. They're both high achievers at school and in athletics and have lots of friends, so I guess they have better things to do.
Posted by vm019302 (85 comments )
Reply Link Flag
to keep kids safe online, listen to them
I've written about this at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.beginningwithi.com/tech/kidsonline.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.beginningwithi.com/tech/kidsonline.html</a> and <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.beginningwithi.com/italy/living/kidspace.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.beginningwithi.com/italy/living/kidspace.html</a>

There is no technological fix that will work all the time and no parent can watch their kids every minute of their lives. So kids need to learn to take care of themselves, avoid bad situations as much as possible, and react wisely when something nasty happens.

The best way to help them do that is to talk with them and listen to them. Give advice, not orders.
Posted by deirdrestraughan (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Some resources for parents...
A lot of helpful advice and suggestions have already been posted here.

The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) agrees that it?s important to make sure children have access to everything cyberspace has to offer, but parents need to use the right tools to make sure their kids are safe online. That?s why internet service providers, browsers, home filtering software, and even computer operating systems offer parental control options.

However, for filtering and controls to work, you have to make sure the computer your child uses is set up for it!

There are many ways to make a computer more "child safe." For a starting point, we have posted a list of helpful resources on our LINKS FOR PARENTS page at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.asacp.org/parental_guidelines.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.asacp.org/parental_guidelines.php</a>.
Posted by RickASACP (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Keep It Simple Stupid

We don't want our children drinking alchohol, driving too early,
etc. Since the dawn of time, when this is the case, we simply
don't let them. Before you go all bat-crap on me, read on.

If you don't want your children, on the internet, don't give them
internet access. If you want to control where, when, and how we
have tools to control just that. It really is quite simple.

1. Set an age limit before they can access the internet.
2. When they have reached an age, and you have taught them
responsibility, give them "controlled" access.

2a. The first step would be to let them use a computer, that
only allows access through a browser (port 80). They will not
need email, and chat until they get older. The browser would
allow them access to only specific sites.

2b. The next step(s) would be to increment the sites they are
allowed access to (as they get older).

2c. When they reach an age you feel responsible enough for,
and educational needs demand it, give them email. That is
filtered by where the emails come from. This can easily be done
by identifing the IP addresses, and a combination of sender

2d. As they get older, preferable high school (for my tastes), let
them have IM. However, all chat messages under you control
should be saved, and you control the IM addresses they receive
IMs from.

Sooner or later, you're going to have to take the reigns off, and
let them fly. Just like alchohol, driving, etc., you are NOT going
to keep them from doing things 100% of the time, when they are
teen-agers. But you have complete control before then. Why
not exercise some of that control?

Common sense always wins out at the end of the day. The
problem is, most peoples frustrations are they know less about
computers than their children.

Do any of you realize that this is the only time in the history of
the human race that this will be generally true?! Your children
are not going to have the same problems dealing with these
issues than the average parent of today has.

You can't stop a large-scale socialogical change. What you can
do is find out more about it, not be afraid of it, and use the tools
available ... and your common sense.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
K.I.S.S. is a farse without Parents
I completely agree with most of your post. The one caveat in your proposal/advise is the parent factor.

In the beginning of the television age parents were quick to limit the viewing time since it was new and unpredictable. Everyone over 40 has probably heard the nagging "move back from the television" command or "go out side and play" from parents.

Nowadays the television, video games, and the computer are the "baby sitter."

The "baby sitter" will keep them out of my hair is the main thought these days.

Parenting today is almost like being the grand parent. Kids come over - the kids are wonderful! I can spoil them, love them, cuddle them and then send 'em home. The only difference now is that "home" is the PC, television, or video games. The new "baby sitter."
Posted by Inetsec (40 comments )
Link Flag
I have two daughters and an IT job
I want my daughters (young enough that I worry) to have access. I'm teaching them how to get online from my computer but everything on that computer goes through a filter. For now they are both restricted to a group of sites I've personally reviewed and we add them on a test by test basis.

When they're old enough, they will get a gray list password where they can visit any site from lists we share online and download from the community.

Everything is logged, everything goes through the filter and when I finish getting it to do everything I want (it still takes some administration) anybody will be able to use it and not even people who do this sort of a thing for a living will be able to bypass it without triggering alerts.

I'm toying with the idea of making copies of my filter box and selling them. The hardware and software are pretty cheap. I've even set up a new address filteredfamily at charter dot net to gauge interest. (Nothing for sale yet, just seeing if anybody else is interested.)
Posted by ancientt (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Passively monitor and educate
I guess I am one of the few who knows more about personal computers than my kids. When they were in middle school, we only had one computer and it was in the dining room, the hub of the house. Everyone could see what everyone was doing.

Later, when they got into high school, they wanted their own email addresses, so I setup an email server at home and gave them their own addresses, on the stipulation that they do NOT get their own addresses from a "free" site. I could monitor the server log to see who was sending email to the kids. Did I monitor every email? Absolutely not. Did I check the logs on occasion? You bet. Would I ask which email address went with what person that I didn't know? Yes. I had set up the email server about the time that spam was just starting up, so I would see email activity in the logs while I was looking for the amount of spam that was arriving. It was a great cover for having to look through the logs!

The biggest threat I saw with their IM'ing and using the predecessors to the social sites - Deadjournal and LiveJournal - was their putting identifiable information on their journals. They would roll their eyes when I mentioned the "No identifying information" rule; I think they got the message. So I used to talk to the kids about what is considered good "Netiquette" and what is bad.

You already have tools at your disposal to help keep track of where your kids are visiting. You can check the history of your web browser to see what sites they have been visiting. They may learn to clear the history and cache of the browser. However, a squeaky clean history and cache can indicate someone covering their tracts, and that is something you can talk to your kids about.

By the time my kids were in high school, each of them had learned about creepy people using IM (my kids used AIM ALOT, not so much of the IRC channels) and either learned how to block them or ignore them. Keep the lines of communication open with your kids. Let them know AHEAD of time that if something doesn't seem right or they need help, let them know that they are not in trouble just for asking.

Monitoring and establishing trust are in opposition. I think the most vulnerable ages for kids are grade school through 9th grade. You as a parent will monitor a toddler to make sure he or she doesn't fall into a swimming pool. You as a parent also need to monitor your kids to make sure they are practicing safe computing. Once a toddler is old enough to know not to fall into a swimming pool (or you taught them how to swim!) you may relax your vigilance a bit. Same with an older kid with a computer. Once they have proven to be safe computing people, you can ease up on the monitoring. If they are giving out personal information on the net, then you need to increase the monitoring.
Posted by bitsplice (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Kid Safety Online
My solution was very simple - the "kiddoes" log onto their computer as users (not administrators or power users) so they can't install programs on the system. Also I've locked down their Internet Explorer by setting up a password for internet access under the tools | Options | Content and add the sites that they are allowed to visit to the approved list and "not-allowed" sites to the dis-approved list. I hear a lot of whining and complaints - but I know where my children have been "surfing". I've also removed pre-installed programs like Instant Messenger thru Start | Settings | Control Panel | Add / Remove Programs | Add / Remove windows Components just to be on the safe side.
Posted by Robert337 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Child-Safe Internet Safety
1st,create a user account for each child. create it as an administrator account [ oh,don't woory,change to Limited later ].
once logged in as that new user,download your choice of child-safe web browser from here
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://secureinternet.friendpages.com" target="_newWindow">http://secureinternet.friendpages.com</a>
there are only 13 [ lol ] there.
now,start chopping ! start-properties-start-advanced.
choose do not show this item for everything.
close it up and return to the start page. right click internet &#38; email icons,select delete from this list. start-properties-taskbar.
customize,choose always hide for every icon,except the child safe web browser of your choice.close.
delete outlook express shortcut from all programs as well as internet explorer.
delete all shortcuts from desktop EXCEPT child safe web broswer. you couls set this web browser to be "pinned" to start page if you choose.
you now have a start page with only a child safe web browser,a desktop with only a shortcut to a child safe web browser and an empty taskbar except for the clock. logg off,return to main administrator account and change new user from administrator to [ seeeee ] LIMITED user !
Posted by earle (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You left so many holes wide open I don't know where to begin
My kids would have wide-open access in fifteen minutes.
Posted by jd1023948 (47 comments )
Link Flag
Kids' Safety
Unlike a great deal of schools, libraries and governmental philosophies on internet access, I've taken a much different approach. I do not use web blocking software. I firmly believe that good internet habits need to be learned, and not mandated. I also do the following:
1. The internet computer is in a public place in the house (not in anyone's bedroom).
2. Web usage (e-mail, browser, IM) is checked periodically for improper use.
3. Spot checks are performed, as well.
Posted by mrjam32 (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My suggestion: limit internet time.
It's a big bloody waste of time at best, and a window into just how sick our society has become at worst. For intellectual and emotional development, I'd rather they were parked on the couch watching re-runs of Fear Factor.
Posted by jd1023948 (47 comments )
Link Flag
my kids have OS X 'Parental Controls' accounts
the 5 yr old and the 9 yr old have had (for the last 2 years!)
restricted internet access via the family Apple Mac - kids login
by choosing their own icon, and have a list of (parental) pre-
defined websites such as cbeebies.co.uk, no google, (I use BBC
pre-filtered search engine) no pop-ups, no spam, no viruses. If
they link to a new website - they come to me for a 10 second
authorisation, or an explanation of why that wouldn't be a good
Bill Gates's kids would be guaranteed safe with a Mac "Parental
Control" on OS X, hopefully the same experience will come with
the new Vista invention of "Parental Controls" (Hey Great name
Bill, Mr Allchin and Mr Balmer - I wonder where on earth you got
the inspiration for Vista "Parental Controls"!

remember, the Internet was invented by adults for adults, so
parents should be 100% involved in their childrens' online
experiences - whilst still developing ICT skills for the
forthcoming 'always-on' society.
Posted by cyclotron--2008 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Corporations and Governments Can Do More
Although I agree that parents must take responsibility for what their kids see online, I also think that the governments and corporations need to do more.

There are tons of free adult content sites online. This free content is used to lure users (and ultimately children) to adult sites.

I would like to see a law that requires adult content purveyors to require a credit card before passing out their content. This would at least make it much more difficult for under aged visitors to get access to adult content.

As far as I'm concerned, companies that make pornography accessible to children are no better than child pornographers.

We have explored this very complex topic for over 5 years. www.afsac.org
Posted by joezeppy (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Restrict what they can do online
A) I installed ZoneAlarm Suite with password-protected parent filtering.

B) I check web browsing history regularly.

C) The computer is in a public place where anyone can see what they are doing.

D) I instruct babysitters that they should monitor what the children are doing on the Internet. I also found from experience that I need to specifically tell the babysitters they may not create accounts for the children on MySpace and any other web site.
Posted by b_tphelps (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Don't try to child-proof the computer -
- computer-proof the child. The only way to keep a child safe to to teach her. That's teach - not lie to, order, isolate, browbeat, etc. Our job as parents is to teach our children to survive in the world. You don't do that by pretending the world doesn't exist. Kids will find the world - at school, at a friend's house, at the local internet cafe, even at the local convenience store in some towns. So you teach them. You teach them who and what is out there and what is good and what is bad. You teach them values and common sense and answer their questions honestly and without judgement or anger or force. The biggest terrorists in this world are not Al Qaida, it's parents who want to force their children to think, feel, and do only what they approve of. If your kids trust you they will come to you with questions, and with their mistakes - they will turn to you for help when they need it. But if they fear you they will lie, and hide, and go to someone else who makes them feel safer.
My daughter has been online since we got Prodigy and a 2400 baud modem. She has seen some things that I wish she hadn't, but she comes to me and we talk about it. By the same token, she has seen some things on the nightly news, and at the neighborhood mall, and in movie trailers, and in cars on the street that are a match for anything on the Internet. I can't be with her 24/7. But I can teach her values that are with her 24/7. I can teach her to trust and believe in me so that she feels free to call me no matter what she's done, no matter where she's been, and she knows that while I may not approve, I'll always be there for her and always love her. And that's how I keep her safe on the Internet and everywhere else.
Posted by debll (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If you don't have solid computer skills...
Perhaps it is best not to have kids.

I think it would be best if people who can't program PHP/SQL at the minimum would abstain from reproduction. Limiting children to people who program in C++ with some experience in Assembly would be better (I am not saying you have to be an Assembly guru, but everyone should be able to code a simple program).

PS. Putting the computer in a public room does not always help. I remember looking at porn in hex as a kid.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's funny, but a good point. In terms of kids looking a adult content, what did we do before the net? find dad's girly magazines. It's just easier now to do it online.

Teach the kids. That's what we need to do.
Posted by mbenson111 (14 comments )
Link Flag
Oh yeah, because techno-geeks with no people skills...
are always the BEST parents. What a dork. Here's a better idea. If you have kids, cancel the home Internet. Except for business uses, nobody needs it, it's just a load of crap for no-life nerds.
Posted by jd1023948 (47 comments )
Link Flag
The solution: Be with them.
If they're 6 years old and under, sit right next to them as they get online, and make them ask before clicking any link, or by typing in any URL that isn;t already bookmarked... period. Only the web should be used.

from 7-9, be in the same room, with an easy view of the screen. They still have to ask before they can hit anything not already bookmarked, but this time they can do email and chat as long as you're right there next to them and you speak with the person on the other end of the chat line (to let that person know you're eyeballing the whole thing).

10-16? You're still in the same room w/ an easy view of the monitor, but this time they can show some discretion and initiative as to where they can go.

17-18, they're allowed to use the computer somewhat independantly (even letting the kid have one in his/her room), but make this a gradual loosening, letting them know that you are perfectly allowed to walk in and review their activities online at any time, and perhaps only allowing the 17-year-old to use the computer when you're home and at no other time. It would prolly be a good idea to install a discreet keylogger, or at least copy off their browser history lists to a location they can't get at for later review.

If you do it right, over time the child learns that you're going to be there no matter what they do or try, and that once they leave the house and strike out on their own, they will have developed habits that will keep them cautious about what they do there.

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lol. Restrictking will only make it worse.
I'm 18 years old and restricting the computer will only make it want to get around the blocks and restrictions even more.

I think the only thing you can do is Educate them and let them make the decsion themselves.

I mean, look at these people. Beat it into their head that they shouldn't meet people off the internet, I know my parnets did.

The more limits you set, the more likely they are going to rebel and do it just to deify you.
Posted by sgtslappy (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Parents working together
Delegates to the 2007 National PTA Annual Convention in St. Louis, Missouri will be considering and voting on a resolution which addresses the problem of Internet and Wireless Communications Safety. The resolution submitted jointly by New York PTA and Alaska PTA focuses on PTA members working together with communities and schools to create an awareness of the dangers and the solutions to help keep children safe both online and on their cell phones.

Because PTA is such a large organization, they have the ability to reach many parents and children with vital information. So parents who may not been net savvy can find out about the problems and solutions to keep your kids safe online.

If you are PTA member let your delegates to the convention know your opinions and suggestions or online safety for kids.
Posted by cariade (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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