Beware of Loopholes in Internet Safety

May 27, 2011

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Parents have a natural instinct to keep their kids out of harm's way. Most parents would not house a stranger, adult film star or the school bully. It wouldn't be logical. Yet, that is what parents are doing when they don't make the Internet safe for their children.

It is wise to put Internet safety precautions in place to protect children online. The problem is, kids sometimes seem to have a technological advantage over their parents and can often find ways around Internet safety measures put in place. In fact, your children may already be aware of loopholes allowing them to circumvent house Internet rules, both on your home computer and on their smartphone.

In honor of June being Internet Safety Month I've listed six loopholes that parents need to be concerned about when their child gets online:

  • Using proxy websites, web pages within a web page that allow teens to circumvent web filters and anonymously surf the web.
  • Children can use peer-to-peer sharing to download content that may be infected with inappropriate content or viruses that can aid predators in finding your child's location or in hacking your identity.
  • Wikis and blogs are comprised of user-generated content that can have objectionable content and can't be monitored in real-time by most web filters.
  • Parents that allow their children to use Facebook may not know that their children can create Facebook aliases they can't see or find.
  • Giving children access to a computer with open administrator rights is a common mistake — this will allow them to potentially uninstall web-filtering or other software.
  • Using a website's IP address to bypass a web filter is an easy way to gain access to inappropriate web pages. Most web filters do not block IP addresses and they can be found simply by doing a Google search.

Apart from being aware of these loopholes there are many precautions that families can take to minimize the risk placed on children and teenagers using the Internet. Some ideas parents can implement in their homes include:

  • Keep the home computer in a place visible to the whole family.
  • Set clear house rules on computer/phone time usage, viewable web pages and other guidelines that you may feel are applicable to your family.
  • Password-protect any computers that may be used by children.
  • Tell children to avoid chat rooms and forums that may lead to cyber bullying or Internet predators.
  • Talk to your children about not giving out any personal information online for any reason.
  • Use strong web filtering software such as Net Nanny (www.netnanny.com).
  • Monitor the web browser's history to look for inappropriate web pages.
  • Instruct children not to respond to emails or chats that may seem inappropriate, violent or unfamiliar.
  • Create an open dialogue where children can feel free to talk about things they see online.
  • Know if your children are using other computers away from the home.
  • Teach the family about never meeting someone in person that they met online first.