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Technical Measures to Protect Kids Online
In addition to safety rules, protecting kids online requires the use of software tools, better known as parental controls. Parental control software helps prevent objectionable content and dangerous people from gaining access to your child. A comprehensive suite of parental control tools should include customizable filters, monitoring software, time-managing controls, and Instant Messaging (IM) and chat controls. Parental controls should be utilized on all Internet-enabled devices (desktops, laptops, and gaming, mobile, and music devices). However, these resources are not a substitute for parental supervision.
Tool 1 ►Set age-appropriate filters: Filters block categories of inappropriate websites a child can view, such as sites containing pornography, violence, gambling, and illegal drug information.
7 out of 10 Internet users ages 8 to 18 were exposed to unwanted sexual material and more than three-quarters of unwanted exposure to pornography (79%) happened at home.1
Tool 2 ►Consider using monitoring software, especially if you sense your child is at risk
80% of sexual predators are explicit about their sexual intentions. The offenders lure teens after weeks of online conversations, playing on common teen vulnerabilities, such as their desires for romance, adventure, sexual information, and understanding. In 73% of these crimes, the youth meet the offender on multiple occasions for sexual encounters.2
Tool 3 ►Periodically check your child’s online activity by viewing your browser’s history
65% of all parents and 64% of all teens say that teens do things online that they wouldn’t want their parents to know about.3
Tool 4 ►Set time limits
Tool 5 ►Disallow access to chat rooms and only allow live audio chat with extreme caution
Most sexual solicitation incidents (79%) happened on home computers, beginning with personal questions about the teen’s physical appearance, sexual experience, and with propositions for “cybersex.” 37% of sexual solicitation incidents happen while youth are in chat rooms, and many occur in live chat or instant-message sessions.4
Tool 6 ►Limit your child’s Instant Messaging (IM) contacts to a parent-approved buddy list:
Tool 7 ►Use safe search engines
Tool 8 ►Set up the family’s cyber-security protections
Tool 9 ►Utilize parental controls on your child’s mobile phone and mobile devices
In a recent survey from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, one out of five teens reported that they have ‘electronically sent or posted online, nude or semi-nude pictures of videos of themselves.’ 5
1 Finkelhor, David, Kimberly Mitchell, and Janis Wolak. National Juvenile Online Victimization Study. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2007.
2 Lenhart, Amanda. Family, Friends & Community: Protecting Teens Online. Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2005.
3 Subrahmanyam, Kaveri, David Smahel, and Patricia Greenfield. “Connecting developmental constructions to the Internet: Identity presentation and sexual exploration in online teen chat rooms.” Developmental Psychology 42.3 (2006) 395-406.
4 Wolak, Janis, Kimberly Mitchell, and David Finkelhor, 2006.
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