Technological Solutions to Guarding Kids (page 2)
Monitoring and approving all high-tech interactions is, realistically, very difficult at best if not humanly impossible. Therefore, adequately guarding kids from harmful material requires both human and technological assistance. A combination of hardware, software, and human effort provides very reasonable security which should help us sleep better at night knowing that appropriate boundaries have been restored. Following are several technologically based measures from which you can choose. Each focuses on a different risk although can be effective in guarding kids in one or more areas. For instance, anti-pop-up software can help prevent exposure to pornography, inappropriate websites, and potential viruses. Today’s filtering/blocking software will be a primary precaution for many of the risks overviewed in this book.
Before continuing, however, I do want to re-emphasize that technological solutions to guarding kids is not a replacement for human intervention. We need to help children be knowledgeable about the use (and misuse) of technology, teach them how to make good decisions about how they use technology, and help them police themselves (and perhaps each other) when they are “off track.” Technological solutions are, in my opinion, an effective secondary measure or backup to how we prepare and supervise our children otherwise. In no particular order, here are some viable solutions you can implement right away:
Remember, pop-ups are those pesky little windows that “pop up” while you are browsing. Some will open as soon as the web page you are visiting finishes downloading, others will come up when hovering your mouse cursor over a link, and yet others will open upon leaving the page. They often contain advertising information or worse, bombard you with one pornographic website after another. They are difficult to deal with because the windows open without any buttons to close. Even if you can close a pop-up, frequently another one or more opens right up in its place. The good news is that Pop-Ups have significantly declined as a problem or issue for several reasons. First, they are so annoying that companies that used them were experiencing the opposite effect – users would shy away from the website or worse, boycot the company or website altogether. Second, software became increasingly more powerful for blocking pop-ups which meant that these companies were wasting their time withe content that was rarely viewed. That is, the effectiveness of pop-ups has been greatly compromised. However, they still exist which means that its still a good idea to incorporate anti-pop-up solutions.
Usually the only way to stop pop-ups is to close the browser by clicking on the red “X” in the top right corner or, in Windows, hold the Alt key and press F4 very quickly to close these windows at a rapid pace. Another more effective way to prevent pop-ups altogether is to install a program (usually free) called a pop-up blocker. Here are several:
- Most search engine toolbars such as the Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com/) or Yahoo! Toolbar (http://toolbar.yahoo.com/) includes a pop-up blocker for the Internet Explorer browser;
- If you’re using Windows XP and have the Service Pack 2 (SP2) installed (http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2/default.mspx), you have a pop-up blocker. When you install SP2, Pop-up Blocker is turned on in Internet Explorer and set to the medium setting, which means it will block most automatic pop-ups. The default settings for the pop-up blocker allow you to see pop-ups that are opened when you click a link or button on a website. Pop-up Blocker will also play a sound and show the Information Bar when a pop-up is blocked. You can adjust these settings so that Pop-up Blocker works the way you want it to.
- Another popular pop-up stopper that works with both Internet Explorer is called Pop-Up Stopper® Free Edition (http://www.panicware.com/product_psfree.html). The Professional version works with other such as the increasingly popular Firefox, AOL, MSN, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape 4.x, 6.x, 7.x, Opera 6.x - 7.x, SBC Yahoo, WMConnect, CompuServe, Juno, NetZero, Mozilla 1.7.3 or older.
- Other free pop-up blockers can be found at http://www.popuptest.com/software/freeware_popblock.html
It doesn’t hurt to have a couple of these running at the same time. I have found that the pop-up blockers that come with the Google Toolbar and Internet Explorer 7.0 running at the same time have solved the problem for me almost entirely. Once you’ve installed your blockers, you can test them out by visiting http://www.popuptest.com/.
Blocking and Filtering Software
Software solutions to preventing access to harmful material falls into two general classes. Solutions that (a) block net access to certain addresses deemed to contain objectionable material (i.e., blocking); and (b) block access based on the appearance of certain words or phrases in the data being downloaded (filtering).
Neither of these approaches is foolproof. Remember, the web is a dynamic place with content being added, changed, and deleted from all over the world during every second of every day. No person, organization, or robot could ever document all websites at any given moment which might contain objectionable material. In trying, some legitimate websites are also screened out based on the occurrence of certain words or phrases that could very well be written in a daily newspaper or even the Bible. One of my own websites was blocked by schools because it provided information about confronting sexual harassment and contained words (probably “sex”) that triggered the school’s filters. Sometimes an Internet filter will allow a picture from a pornographic site to appear in the browser before triggering a block. This is because many porn sites purposely represent all the “words” in the opening page in the form of graphics in order to defeat any word filter. And, of course, once a picture is on the computer screen it can be saved, printed, e-mailed, or posted just about anywhere else on the Net before it is eventually discovered and added to the blocking list which means that the photo can be found elsewhere, namely some kid’s cell phone or e-mail.
So, although blocking/filtering software is not foolproof and you should not completely rely on them, you should use them in conjuntion with other measures. At my home we use CyberSitter (http://www.cybersitter.com) which I love. It does an excellent job of blocking, is easily customizable, and is jam packed with lots of helpful features. With CyberSitter, you can:
- Block access to undesirable web sites. Over 35 filter categories are provided;
- Record and view all web sites visited;
- Record both sides of chat conversations from AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and MSN Messenger;
- Block or limit access to popular but potentially dangerous services such as MySpace and FaceBook;
- Set time restrictions for internet usage;
- Get activity reports by e-mail;
- Configure the program via remote control.
Other popular blocking/filtering software resources include:
- America On Line (AOL) has created features to help parents make sure their children have a fun and enriching experience online, while limiting access to some features of AOL and the Internet. These “Parental Controls” allow parents to designate different levels of access for each child. http://www.aol.com. Also, MSN has a fully featured parental control as well. http://www.msn.com
- Many schools and libraries incorporate Bess filtering software which you may want to learn more about. http://www.securecomputing.com/index.cfm?skey=1209
- Cyber Patrol is used to manage Internet access, limit the total time spent online and restrict access to Internet sites that you deem inappropriate. http://www.cyberpatrol.com
- Cyber Sentinel allows user to block inappropriate material (web pages, e-mail, pictures, and word processing documents) no matter what format it is in, or what it is. It also allows the owner to configure the program to run in stealth mode (so the end user doesn’t know it is running). The owner can then run Cyber Sentinel later and see screen shots of when the user was viewing inappropriate material. http://www.securitysoft.com/
- Net Nanny allows you to monitor, screen and block access to anything residing on, or running in your PC, whether you are connected to the Internet or not, and in real time. http://www.netnanny.com
- Mac users will want check out Content Barrier (http://www.intego.com/contentbarrier/) and Kids GoGoGo (http://www.makienterprise.com).
- K9 Web Protection, for both Windows and Macintosh, is a free Internet filtering and control solution for the home. http://www1.k9webprotection.com/
- The parental controls built into Windows Vista are designed to help parents manage what their children can do on the computer. These controls help parents determine which games their children can play, which programs they can use, and which websites they can visit—and when. http://tinyurl.com/39xefv
- For very young computer users, I like FreeShield which provides very good parental controls. In addition to blocking sites with adult content or content that would not be appropriate for children, FreeShield allows you to simply create and update lists of “good” sites and “bad” sites, the latter of which get completely blocked. http://www.freeshield.com/
Keylogging software is much more aggressive than monitoring software because it actually registers or records every keystroke a user types. This type of software has been traditionally used by online attackers who secretly plant the keylogging software on your computer and then analyze the data for passwords or other information they can use. Businesses and organizations use this type of software to snoop on their workers, especially to determine breaches in confidentiality that could compromise trade secrets. Keylogging software has found a new home inside the homes of parents because they allow you to have access to and read chat discussions, e-mails, passwords, and other online activity eminating from your personal computer. Screen captures (snapshots of the screens in the form of a graphic file) are also typically recorded at specified time intervals so you can see exactly what your child sees. Most keyloggers run in the background and are very difficult to circumvent or disable. Check out these to get you started:
- IamBigBrother. http://www.iambigbrother.com
- PC Tattletale http://www.pctattletale.com
- eBlaster http://www.spectorsoft.com
- Snoopstick. This one is from the same makers of CyberSitter. http://www.snoopstick.com/
- Guardian Monitor Pro http://www.guardiansoftware.com/index2.html
- For Apple Macintosh® users, you will be glad to know that there is a version of Spector for Macs as well. http://www.spectorsoft.com
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- Problems With Standardized Testing