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Monitoring Kids Online

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As children become more and more comfortable with the use of technology,many parents are getting left behind. Paula Lepore Burrough looks into monitoring kids online.

With education adopting 21st-century skills, schools have become 1:1 with technology, meaning almost all students carry a device with them 24/7. When online, they have access to the world but are not protected from trolls (bad people) or from accessing inappropriate content. Schools teach digital citizenship and typically use a firewall to safeguard students. But parents need to participate in the best method of protection – education. Here are some other measures to consider implementing to protect your children from the chaos of the internet.

Usage control

By installing software such as RescueTime and observing an activity log, you keep the door open for mistakes which can be turned into a learning opportunity. But there are times when you need to exert more control. Cold Turkey allows the user to temporarily block off social-media sites, gaming or addictive sites. For more restrictive measures, use the computer’s operating system to limit access to programmes and websites. If using Windows 7,simply go into the control panel, click on Set Up Parental Control for Any User and follow the onscreen prompts. On a Mac, launch System Preferences and select the Accounts preference.

Parental control software

You can download free or cheap third-party software programmes that impose time restrictions, block inappropriate content/ websites, observe social-network activity and set up filters. Top-rated programmes for Windows and Mac are AceSpy, Norton Online Family, Net Nanny, Bsecure and Spector Pro. Research and compare other parental monitoring software using the site Find The Best. And if your child has online access with a 3G mobile device, choose a software suite that also monitors text messages, transactions, pictures and a full list of phone logs. Remember, this software will only monitor personal devices not a school or friend’s computer.

Router time scheduling

You could also consider setting up a home router to protect your child. For this to be an effective measure, it needs to be configured via a web-based interface through a web browser on your computer, and you will need to remove access to any other open networks from neighbours. All routers have some form of content filtering capability: scheduling time limits for use on selected days, controlling internet activities for specific users or blocking domains and URLs. For set-up advice, view the Getupandrunning.net YouTube video on ‘content filtering/ parental control using your router’. When purchasing a router, ask an expert about the most appropriate brand for you.

Web-browser filters

Be aware of what browser your child is using to surf the net, for instance Safari, Firefox or Chrome. You can control access by going into the browser’s settings panel and selecting the types of sites you want enabled or disabled. Blocking pop-ups and disabling the option to delete browser history are other useful controls. If you think your child will simply download another browser, take advantage of the computer’s operating system and set a password to prevent downloads. An alternative option to web filtering is using a content filtering tool such as DansGuardian, K9 Web Protection or OpenDNS. Note that a truly techie kid will likely be able to work around filter measures.

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