What are the biggest threats for your child on the internet? Plus tips on how to keep them safe online

February 28, 2013

The more tech-savvy my son gets, the more I worry about protecting him online. Last week I featured a great piece of software called K9 for web protection, and this week I got some practical tips on what is lurking online, and how to keep our kids safer.


Justin Lee of Blue Coat Systems shares some advice and info for parents. Good news is that you don’t need to be a techie to understand or implement it:


What are the biggest threats that children face on the internet today?

One of the biggest issues for parents remains: what are they looking at and who are they communicating with?

Beyond the well-publicised threats of cyber bullying, and preventing children from accessing sites containing adult content, parents also need to guard against children inadvertently sharing their personal information with strangers. Children’s trust makes them vulnerable to predators but also people could ‘phish’ late teens knowing that when they are 18 this data can be used for identity theft, robbery and fraud.

Is parental control software the only, or indeed the right/recommended, solution?

Technology can, of course, provide peace of mind with site blocking providing protection from Web-based malware and offensive content and time control functionality. It’s a valuable tool for protecting kids online, for example it will prevent sites with adult content from loading and parents can set controls over what time of day children can surf the net or play video games through their own user accounts.

Parents can configure the software to block or allow specific categories, such as pornography, spyware, and adult content, and also block access to the web.

Software is not a standalone tool – it’s part of a ‘multi-layered’ solution, and there are simple practical steps that parents can take:

  • Keep the computer in a visible place within the home so you can see what is on the screen.
  • Take an active interest in what children are doing on the web.
  • Explain to them the importance of not sharing personal information online.

Can you provide five essential tips for parents wanting to keep kids safe online?

To a large extent it’s an issue of trust between parent and child. The net is one of the essential tools of modern life and while we don’t want to dissuade them from surfing, there are some golden rules that parents should follow:

  • Communicate – talk to your children about the web and its uses. Keep the PC somewhere where you can have visibility which means you’ll have a degree of control over what they’re looking at and who they’re communicating with.
  • Educate – explain the importance of not sharing personal information online such as names addresses, photos or other easily identifiable information.
  • Prevent – restrict or block your children from using chat rooms; these are the main hunting ground for online predators. Establish rules so that they can IM only people that they know or who are on an approved list.
  • Protect – make use of software which is specifically designed to control children’s use of the internet. This need not mean additional expenditure and there are solutions which parents can download which offer web protection at no cost and that offer an easy way to control access to offensive or inappropriate sites, and protect against malware and phishing.
  • Report – share any content or activity that you suspect as illegal or criminal to the police.

What techniques are employed by parental control software to prevent the access of inappropriate material and inappropriate contact with adults?

Many of these tools employ sophisticated techniques that are tried and tested in the corporate world. For example, Blue Coat’s K9 Web Protection implements the same web filtering technology used by Blue Coat enterprise and government customers worldwide. Parents can configure the software to block or allow content from specific categorie


How effective are the following techniques in the real world

  • White/blacklisting
  • Category-based blocks (such as social network sites, sex sites etc)
  • Application-based blocks (such as blocking IM activity)
  • Timed controls (restricting Internet/site access by time of day)?

All of these techniques play an important part in making the web family friendly and building a ‘kid-proof’ means of applying control. The instant rating service has increased the coverage available dramatically in the last year.

The cloud service behind K9 now receives 1.2 billion requests a week, each one improving the overall ratings. Parents will need to determine which method to employ based on how their PC is used at home – some form of internet filtering is a must – yet all these technology methods will need to be supplemented with effective communication about acceptable web use.

Image via Commons.wikipedia.com

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