Here we are on the eve of a whole new year and that means a whole lot more to think about when it comes to keeping our kids safe online. The thing to remember about the new year is that it comes on the heels of of the holiday gift-giving extravaganza. How many people do you know who received new electronics as a gift? And how many more do you know who took advantage of the boxing day sales at Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, Best Buy and the countless other superstores? All those folks were not just buying plasma televisions, they were also buying computers, x-boxes, i-Pods, web-enabled cell phones and a countless array of other items that access the internet.

The season isn't just a boon for retailers... it's a marketing extravaganza for on-line marketers and a field day for predators. Statistics show that all those new computers will be used for more hours during the first month than during the following 4 months combined. All those new computers will be cranked up and tested out. All our kids wanting to explore the limits of their new gadgets is an invitation to those who want to take advantage of their wide-eyed excitement and slip past normal defences.

On-line marketers, both legitimate and those not so reputable types, take advantage of this bubble of interest to put their message in front of as many people as possible. And it's no coincidence that they do it at a time when so many people are just learning how to use a new gadget, or haven't had a chance to install the latest virus software, junk-mail filters, or security program. And don't forget that new systems require you to put in place a whole new set of parental controls.

For the new year, let's all do our bit to keep our kids safe by making a few easy resolutions. Here's a few to help you...

  1. Install the latest anti-virus software before anything else. Better yet, have the store install and set it up for you before you take that new gadget home. Before you do any surfing, make sure you do an on-line update with the software to install the most up-to-date defenses.
  2. For younger kids, pre-set all parental controls before the kids get their hands on any new devise. For your older children, sit down with them as they set up the devise on their own. That way they will feel in control even though you are setting the limits - and they will learn to take security seriously.
  3. Don't set up any new e-mail accounts until you've had a chance to fully understand the limits of your new devise and then make sure your filters are set to the highest setting for the first month or so. Keep an eye on your kids messages and flag any junk-mail or spam right away.
  4. Have the messages filtered by your security software dumped into a secure folder that you can review to catch any errors. Better yet, review them with your kids so they learn to recognize what is and isn't appropriate. Always flag junk-mail as spam, don't just delete it. By doing so, your software will learn how to filter the messages you don't want to get through.
  5. The best defense is always the best offense. Be with your kids and pay attention to what they are doing whenever they access the internet.
I already do my best to do all these things. But it doesn't hurt to take a refresher once in a while. For the new year, that's my resolution. What's yours?

Competing Priorities

Once again, I find myself wanting to apologize for not being here more often. But, the truth is that I'm here all the time. The only problem is that I can't seem to find the time to seek out the interesting tid-bits or news that make for good posts. My dedication to all things related to kids safety online is still as strong as ever, but my ability to stay on top of my responsibility as a blogger is seriously challenged by competing priorities. But then it dawned on me. In a nutshell, those everyday distractions that get in the way is exactly the point of my blog! We all want to protect our kids. We want them to be safe and secure. And whenever we can, we are there to ensure they are out of harm's way. But we all have other competing priorities that make it difficult to be on the alert every moment of every day. It's easy to loose track of a 3 year old at the park when you're trying to calm a crying 1 year old. It's easy to loose track of what your kids are watching on television when you're busy making pb&j sandwiches for lunch. It's easy to miss that mouse click that leads to a porn site when you're untangling a doll's hair from the modem jack. It's at these brief moments when our kids are most vulnerable, and we must do our best to either be there, or make sure the protections are in place so we can safely look away. I may not be able to blog every day, but you can be sure that I will always be on the lookout for my children's best interests. When it comes to competing priorities, my kids come first! And for that reason, I won't apologize if I can't find the time to blog more often!


Out of touch.

Wow, it's amazing what a vacation can do to your sense of things. It seems like forever since I've been blogging and now I don't know where to begin. My family was away on holidays for a bit and we just got back. And of course before that was the mad rush to get things organized and clear work off the plate. The mad rush didn't give me much time to keep up with my posts nor did it give me much time to even keep up with news to blog about. The reverse works on the other end. Now that I'm back I've got to get caught up with everything I've missed, put on my work hat, unpack and do laundry and get groceries and... and... and... So forgive me if I'm a little out of touch. I promise to be back on line soon. And in the meantime, drop me a line and let me know what I've missed!


Cyber Summer Break

What ever happened to going outside to play in the yard when school let out for the summer? When I was a kid, I couldn't wait for the last day of school and the endless weeks of endless fun that followed. But it seems that these days, all kids can think about is the opportunity to play Nintendo and x-box all day long without homework getting in the say. Well, at least one school board in NJ understands this phenomenon and is hosting a seminar on keeping our kids safe while they are online during their summer break. I wish all our schools where as thoughtful. Read the article here. Actually, what I really wish for is that our kids would find the back yard as interesting as the internet!


States Stats with a Swiss Accent

The great blog Edukey is based in Switzerland and has lots of helpful information for parents. There was a recent post there about cyber predators. The stats quoted are from a US study and they mirror the recent Ipsos Reid-Microsoft study from Canada that I mentioned a while back right here. The conclusion is that the only real solution is more communication between parents and their kids. I couldn't have said it better myself!

Yo Yo Yo

I received a nice e-mail the other day from Lynn who is part of a group who has developed a new web site that is really great. Here's how she describes it... "This site was developed with children's safety in mind. Parent involvement is key to helping keep our kids safe. The only people our kids can communicate with our the ones we, as parents approve. No personal information is give out at any time."

Although the site is still in it's Beta stage (that means it's still being tested to us ordinary folks), it has a lot of great features worth looking at that kids will love - e-mail, instant messaging, homework help, and games. For parents, there's the assurance that it is a safe place for our kids to play. Check it out here. Registration is free.


If it's good enough for the office...

A recent survey - reported on by Canada's CBC - shows that the majority of businesses monitor online use by their employees. The whole story is here. There's a lesson here for all of us - we should be willing to monitor use by those in our care. For a business that's an employee, for a parent that means our kids. The article points out that businesses should set in place clear and reasonable guidelines, expectations and awareness among employees - both for fairness and for privacy reasons. As parents we should do the same.


Macleans tackles online porn in this issue

There's a great in-depth story in Canada's Macleans magazine this month about those nasty types that prey on children and how they thrive in the online environment. The article quotes investigative journalist Julian Sher in this paragraph:

The Internet "doesn't create pedophilia," Sher notes, "but it certainly does fuel it." In the past, pedophiles were isolated, repressed by the revulsion most people felt toward them and limited in their opportunities. "But now offender after offender will tell you about their eureka moment," says Sher, "when they first went online and saw not only the images -- the live images -- available, but immersed themselves in the acceptance, the assurance they
were among like-minded people."

Read the entire story here.

It's a reality check we must constantly remind ourselves of that the dangers online won't go away any time soon. So let's pay attention. Let's inform ourselves by reading this kind of story and paying attention to what our kids are doing online.

Public Pics in a Pickle

An interesting debate is going on here about recent suggestions that public photography be banned or at least regulated in certain places - especially where kids congregate. There are some good points - about privacy and concern about online posting of inappropriate snaps of unsuspecting kids. I wonder where this one will go or how far the authorities (or the public) can push such an idea? Any thoughts? I'd like to hear what you think.

To Triple-X or Not to Triple-X

For some time, there has been a movement out there that has suggested that the internet masters should designate a special address for adult content. Like the .com, .org, .net designators, these adult sites would use .xxx A neat idea that would help identify adult sites. The problem with this idea was the lack of control. I've been torn on the issue myself for a lot of reasons some of which are raised in this post by Larry Maqid over on the online CBS site. Some of the other reasons are contained in the comments to that same post. For me, the designation, whether mandatory or not, legitimizes the free-for-all of online access. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude, I just don't think that it should be easy for youngsters to access or be unwittingly exposed to adult content. A standard designation may make it easier to filter and block sites, but it will also allow less savoury characters to hide behind that wall of legitimacy. Free speech, regulating content, security... this one covers it all. The regulators rejected the proposal, by the way. As I said, I don't know if that was good or bad. What do you think?


Mickey with a Mouse?

The folks over at KINSA are hosting a contest that allows kids to submit ideas for an online safety mascot. Check it out here. And it's in partnership with TVO which is the Ontario equivalent of PBS. Fun times!


Some of us DO still read magazines!

Today's Parent is a great Canadian magazine for parents - obviously. Their web site has a great page with information for parents about kids and online use. It includes links to other resources and tips like the suggestion about getting to know what your kids are talking about. Too often we dinosaurs don't have a clue what the next generation is up to or talking about. But we better know if we want to keep them safe. Check out the whole article here. And while we're on the topic of magazines, Parents (this one is an American publication) also has some good advice about online activities - if you can find it through all the pop-up ads, that is (is it just me or does everyone find those things as annoying as me?). Read it here. While you're on their site, do a site search with "computers" to see some other great articles on the same topic.


A View from Down Under

Check out this post by Megan about a great book that helps educate kids and adults on "protective behaviours". Home Schooling Aspergers.: Win a Children's Book about Protective Behaviours I have family livng "down under" so it's good to know there's folks about looking out for kids in their part of the world too.


Looking for Sites

Looking for more resources and web sites geared toward kid safety on the internet. Try this great portal. The sites listed here provide a wealth of information for young and old. And I think the "bug" is cute, too!


Anonymous e-mail generator.... what a great idea!

Doing a completely unrelated web surf, I came across information about this great service that allows you to generate anonymous e-mail addresses. Why? Have you tried to get information from a web site recently? Have to tired to register for a "free" something or other? What about signing up for a news feed, or just about anything you want on the web? I'll bet your kids have! So what happens when you do? Spam, spam and more spam. And that's the good news. The bad news is that the information you share can be used to compromise your security and safety both online and off. Well, this service offers a way to get around sharing your personal information (ie. your email address) when signing onto one of these sites or services. It generates an anonymous and random link that allows you to keep your personal info safe and still get the information you want. And best of all - its free! What a great idea!

Protect Your ID

Just read an interesting article about protecting against identity theft. It's a good piece by Kurt Hyde, who's been in the computer biz for over 30 years, and points out a lot of stuff about how ID theft takes place and what we should do to prevent it. Once you're done reading that, go back to my post about using software to protect your kids while they are online.


Justice - for our Kids

The U.S. Department of Justice launched the Project Safe Childhood program about a year ago and since then has done a lot of good work in tackling the growing problems associated with online dangers being faced by our kids. According the the DOJ, "as technology advances and as the Internet becomes more accessible, the number of computer-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes committed against children—including child pornography offenses and “traveler” or enticement crimes—will only continue to grow. The goal of Project Safe Childhood is to enhance the national response to this growing threat to America’s youth." Hear, Hear! Check out the information available on their web site here.


Praising Arizona

A great report out of Arizona about the recently concluded Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force which investigated over 1,300 incidents and managed to nab 100 evil-doers. It's a great report and there are some interesting stats included. Although the figures about luring and possession of child porn are familiar and scary, what I found most interesting was this number - during the mandate of the task force, 17% of incidents - a total of 220 cases - were referred to or supported the work of other law enforcement agencies. The nature of the internet means that crimes are committed everywhere and if we truly want to put a stop to this kind of activity, then cooperation is an absolute must. I take heart in hearing that the folks in Arizona are doing their part. I'm looking forward to - and keeping my fingers crossed for - hearing many more reports like this one.


News Hound Booze Hound

This is the kind of thing that makes me shake my head. According the this story, there are about 25 states that have recently passed laws allowing online sales and shipping of alcohol. Of course the problem comes from the easy access this provides to youngsters who shouldn't have that access. There's a very difficult line to draw here between freedoms and protections. And surely there are ways to monitor the system better. Those whose business it is to provide this kind of service should be responsible for being more responsible about their customers. Ultimately, however, the onus falls on us to be aware of what our kids can find online and make sure they are mature enough to know better.


I wonder what the badge looks like?

Ain't surfing the web great? Somehow I came across an intersting bit that just fits in so well with everything I've been saying here. It's an Internet Safety Pledge available from the Girl Scouts. I guess things have come a long way since the days when girls got badges for baking cookies and learning to sew buttons! The pledge is a great tool, so take a look


Google's child safety initiatives

Came across this interesting post on what Google is doing to help us in our efforts to make the internet a better place for our kids. This post by Elliot Schrage, VP, Global Communications and Public Affairs includes the following important point: "Keeping kids safe on the Internet is a huge task - bigger than any single government, company or family." And he's spot on with that sentiment. I and many others have been calling on companies like Google to take a more active and responsible role in helping us parents deal with the issue for a long time. It's nice to see them responding in such a thoughful and coordinated manner. Read the whole post at: Online child safety initiatives


A polite no, please...

Amy, over at the DotMoms blog posted a great article about having a chat with her son about one of those topics every parent dreads having - what to do or say when somebody touches you the wrong way. Amy says...

"My recent question to my son was spurred by a letter sent home from his school saying that all kindergartners would be involved in a good touch/bad touch program this month facilitated by their school counselor. And I'm all for it. While I think the conversations should be taking place at home as well, it's a message that bears repeating and, unfortunately, not all kids may be getting that message at home."

And I couldn't agree more. It's great to see that at least some of our kids are getting that kind of support from their schools. But I worry that even these enlightened folks are only seeing half the picture. These days, the problem is not isolated to the people our kids meet at the park or down the street. We must recognize that there are just as many dangers of the "virtual" sort that we need to educate our kids about. Our kids are participating in online activity every day at a younger and younger age. At the same time, the incidence of inappropriate activity by online predators is growing. So, let's include lessons that teach kids how to say no online as well as in person.


Justice carries a sword. But she's also blind!

Okay, I know this is a little off topic, but I couldn't help wondering about this story on CNN. In Wisconsin, a man did what few of us would - he tried to help when he heard (mistakenly) a women in distress. Instead of being considered a hero, he now faces criminal charges - for, among other things, carrying a sword. Sure he made a mistake, and without question, he should compensate for his actions. But to face a criminal charge for trying to do the right thing sends the wrong message on every level imaginable. In some States there are laws that make it illegal to ignore somebody in distress. Shouldn't we also consider laws that protect those who do step up, who may possibly put themselves at risk, to help?

Much of what I blog about here is aimed at protecting our kids and ourselves from potential harm online. As individuals, we must take personal responsibility to look after ourselves. But at the same time, we're taking action to protect our children. I don't imagine any one of us would hesitate to jump to their defence when we sensed danger. And wouldn't we all be willing to help anyone else's child when they face those same risks? And if we're willing to help a child, why wouldn't we also be willing to help another adult when they are in peril? I hope we can all be as willing to help as the gentleman in Wisconsin. And I hope that real justice is done so that we can all feel a little safer knowing our neighbors are looking out for us - whether it's at home or online.
Freedom is happy, but is it Safe?

During my usual surfing and blog trolling, I came across an article posted at the Mahatma Gandhi Blog referring to a recent Unicef study that shows children who live in countries that are more permissive are more happy and well adjusted. Apparently kids in the Netherlands are the most happy while the US is ranked 20 and the UK 21. Canada comes in at number 12. It was suggested that such freedoms as legalized drug use and prostitution lead to less rebelliousness and societal calm.

It's great to give children a balanced and open respect for the world around them. But I wonder how balanced a study like this really is. The internet and other electronic communications provide our kids with free access to all sorts of things that may or may not be good for them. The scary thing is that there are those out there that will exploit this freedom. Consider the recent actions in Austria where an international child pornography ring was busted. Is this the kind of freedom we want our kids exposed to? We need to provide them with a careful balance of both freedom and security. And that's something this study didn't really consider.

I, for one, don't think there's anything wrong with including security in the way we measure our happiness.


Happy Valentines

In this modern electronic age, nothing should come as a surprise anymore. I'd thought I'd heard it all until yesterday. I was picking up my son from school - okay... it's really just a glorified day care with a fancy name that sounds more like an ivy league college than a place to get the kids out of your hair for a few hours while you run off to get groceries or do some dusting. Anyway, if you have young kids you know how different and complicated the world has become for kids since we went to school. In my time, we all exchanged valentines cards, handed out treats that mom packed for us and had a little celebration in class to mark the occasion. We'd spend days writing out the little cards with all the kids names and fretting over who would like what card and if our favorite friend would return the favour. Well, no more. In today's paranoid and over-regulated world the treats are taboo because of the countless allergy rules. And I couldn't tell you the names of half the kids in class because the school won't share a list for security and privacy reasons. We resort to blank cards instead and send enough for the teachers to put into the kids mail boxes to be picked up by the parents. My son didn't even know he had received cards until he came home...

Anyway, that isn't the real point. I tell you all this just to set the stage for what happened yesterday afternoon that made my jaw drop. Did I mention I was picking up my son? Who's three and a half? Well another mom came over to me and asked if I would be willing to share my boy's e-mail address as her precious little Johnny wanted to send a valentine's message to all his friends. How sweet, I replied, but my little guy doesn't have an e-mail address, you can send it to me and I'll let him see it, I replied. It was the incredulous and shocked look on the other mom's face that was the big surprise as I handed over my business card. And I won't even mention the silly tone of voice that went along with her suggestion that "I guess it will just have to do".

Are you following me here? A three year old... with his own e-mail account! Now, as you know from the my postings here and the information I provide on my web site, I'm all about safety and security online - especially when it comes to kids. So what in the world is a three year old doing with an e-mail account? Yes it's a modern tool for communication and it's important our kids are fully versed in their use. But so is a telephone - do you let your youngster answer the phone without supervision? Would you let your child even have a phone until they were at least a reasonably responsible teenager? If e-mail is just another tool for communication, shouldn't it be reserved for those who have both the proper skill and the maturity to use it properly. I for one think so. Until then, I'll just have to suffer the annoyance of sharing cute e-mail messages with my son at my side. It won't be long before he's off to a real college with a pretentious name and we won't have that time together, so I'll enjoy it while I can.


CETS wins Award

Congratulations to the creators of CETS (Child Exploitation Tracking System) for winning yet another award - this one from Imagine Canada. You can find a great video about the system at the KINSA web site. Keep up the great work everyone!


It's everywhere

There's a breaking news story today on a child porn ring that was raided in Austria. You can find out more from CNN here. It's not all that surprising these days to hear about the authorities cracking down on people who are abusing kids, so what's the big deal with nabbing a few sickos in Europe? Well, the big deal is that the police have not only arrested a number of bad guys for creating and distributing the filth, but they have also picked up a whole bunch of consumers, too. There's a couple of things interesting about all this. First, by targeting both the producers and the users, the authorities have tried to eliminate both supply and demand in one fell swoop. As long as there is a demand there will be somebody willing to supply it. So it's about time we did something about both ends of the chain. The other thing to note is that authorities have identified users all over the world - 77 countries - including the US and Canada. They have provided authorities here with the internet addresses of users and we can only hope they follow up with some action here too. What all this shows, in glaring flashing warning lights, is that the internet allows this sort of crime to be quickly and easily spread all over the world. While it's wonderful to see that police are being more cooperative, the reality is that the internet allows people to hide quite effectively. We can't rely on the authorities to be everywhere, so we must all be diligent in protecting ourselves to the best of our ability. Remember, protecting your kids from finding this sort of thing online is a vital link in the chain. Let's hope we see more stories like this one in the very near future.


Surfs Up, Dude!

I've be a little slow lately on the blogging front as I've been surfing up a storm. I've been tracking down more sites and resources about online safety from all over the world. Some are great, some are good, and some are just a waste of bandwidth. The point is that there is a lot of information out there about protecting kids. That tells me I'm not the only one who sees this concern as something that really needs attention. Parents all over the world have the same concerns you and I do about the online world and how best to both protect our kids and give them the freedom to explore the wonders available. The problem with finding help and advice is the same as the internet in general - it's hard to sort out the good from the bad. Well, that's what this blog and my web site are all about. I hope to help steer you to the places I think have some real merit and value. That way, you won't have to waste a lot of time surfing the seven seas like I've been doing over the past few days.

So, here's my first recommendation. Check out this great site created by the Guardian Angels. You remember them - they're the folks made famous for wearing red berets around New York to discourage bad behaviour and reduce crime in the really tough parts of town where police seldom bothered to go. Their site is a great resource for parents, educators and even law enforcement. It has tips and help, and even a way to report abuse if you're a victim. It's the kind of help that makes some parts of the internet worth surfing.

Oh, yeah, check out the recent updates on my website at where I've been busy updating my links to include lots of great places like the one I mentioned above.


Fooling Ourselves

One of the points I try to emphasis on this blog and at my web site is the importance of being aware of what your kids are doing. You can't protect them without paying attention and that is a difficult thing to do for the most diligent of us. The real problem, though, arises when we fail to recognize the inherent dangers our kids face.

Consider these interesting findings from a recent Microsoft-Ipsos Reid study on the way kids use their computers online. It's not surprising that few kids really understand just how dangerous it is to share personal information. What is shocking, however is that few parents even have a clue about what their kids are up to. Consider these results from the survey:

30% of kids between the ages of 10 and 14 are online as much as ten hours a week.
11% of kids in that same age group have been asked by a stranger for personal info.
70% of kids believe that info they put online and share with friends is private.

But here's the the shocker:

72% of parents believe their kids use the internet safely.

How are kids to learn the safe way to use the computer, to protect themselves, and to avoid danger, unless we teach them? How can we teach them unless we know what they are up to. Unless, in other words, we pay attention. Unless we do, the only one's we're fooling is ourselves.


Help, I'm addicted to Spying!

Okay, okay, okay... so there I was convinced that tracking software was a questionable thing. Then I broke down my defenses and recommended a second look at the practice of looking over the shoulder of your kids and teens. Well, there's a slippery slope involved here, so hold on tight! Now that I've seen the advantages of the better tracking programs, I'm finding it difficult to say no to the powerful temptation of keeping track of online use. I've been asking around to see what products other parents are using, what they recommend and what they like.

My newest favorite - recommended by Julie R. - is Cyber Patrol. This great program has the usual features of similar programs - site blocking, activity monitor, and privacy protection. What's great about this product is that it also lets you track and even restrict the amount of time users are online, block instant messaging and even prevent downloading programs, music, and images. It has a free trial option if you want to give it a try first and free upgrades. The best deal is a two year licence which you can find here. I highly recommend you check this one out.

In the days ahead, I'll be posting more information about these and other things. As always, you can check out the links on my own web site at and I've added a direct link over on the left. And speaking of my main site, check out the new articles I've jut posted there about preschool software. Very interesting indeed.


Librarians Rock!

A couple of days ago, I posted some information about two web sites that provide information and tips for kids online. One of them was a library based at Michigan State University. Well, it turns out that there are a lot of great library resources out there that are worth a look. The old image of a librarian as an old lady with pointy glasses on a string constantly saying shush is simply not the new reality. Today's librarians are experts at finding and providing information and that means they are also experts online. There are a lot of great library sites that do a great job of sharing information and segmenting it into age-appropriate content. One of the good ones has been developed by the Vancouver Public Library and can be found here. It has links to good resources for kids doing homework, research materials and safety tips for online use. It's worth taking a look. And for future reference, I've added it to my favourite list over on the left.


I Spy with my little... software!

For a long time I've been hesitant to consider the use of tracking software to keep tabs on computer use. It seemed a little hypocritical to me that anybody preaching about the necessity of protecting privacy would be willing to turn around and "spy" on somebody. Where do you draw the line when protecting your kid? Well, as I say on my Kid Friendly Internet site - you probably wouldn't let your kids go to the park without watching them. You probably wouldn't let them head off to the mall all alone, either. So, then, what's the difference about supervising their online activities? Consider this interesting statistic - the average age when a child is first exposed to hard core pornography on the web is 11. And 90% of kids between the ages of 8 and 18 who regularly use the internet have watched porn - most while they are supposed to be doing homework! So, then, there is certainly a strong argument for watching over them.

One good way of doing that is by using tracker software. These programs provide the best of both worlds. They allow you to stay out of your kids personal space while they are online, but to also keep a safe watch over their safety. For me, the key is letting them know you're watching. It isn't nice to spy, but there's nothing wrong with deterrence, either. So let them know you have installed software that will tell you exactly what they are doing. One great product that I was introduced to recently is called My Kids Browser. This program is meant to replace the standard web browser and helps you control what your kids access online. You can set access based on each child's age and set limits for the amount of time they are online and control which sites they visit. For your older kids, you can also set up secure logs that will allow you to see exactly what they are doing, the sites they visit and how long they stay. There's also features to help you track e-mail and IM activity. It's one of many great products that help you manage your kids online activities and keep them safe. I've added a link on the left and to my main web site. You can it and other great products out by clicking here.


Tips are for Kids!

I came across some great sites recently and will be telling you more about them as I go along. I've added a couple over on the left under my "Friends" links, so check them out. I'll also add them to my main web site over at my main site. For now, I want to tell you about two that I really think are good resources - one created by a college, the other by a government agency.

The first is a site developed by the folks up at the University of Michigan. The Internet Public Library is a good resource site and has a section dedicated to kids. There's lots of resources and search engines specially designed for kids' use. It even has a section for help on homework! But most important of all is the section devoted to online safety and security issues. You can find it here.

The other site is the result of a government and police agency sponsored program in the UK called the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. Although they are doing great work on an international scale, the good stuff can be found at a site they developed called Think U Know. The site has tips and advice on all sorts of online and technology related safety concerns. There's resources for kids, parents and teachers. And the British slang is an entertaining read, too. Here's some tips they give for kids using the internet:
  • It's best not to give out your personal details to online mates.
  • Personal stuff includes your messenger id, email address, mobile number and any pictures of you, your family or friends.
  • If you publish a picture or video online – anyone can change it or share it.
  • SPAM/Junk email & texts: don’t believe it, reply to it or use it.
  • It’s not a good idea to open files that are from people you don’t know. You won’t know what they contain – it could be a virus, or worse – an inappropriate image or film.
  • It’s easier to get along with people online and say stuff you wouldn’t offline.
  • Some people lie online.
  • It’s better to keep your online mates online. Don’t meet up with any strangers without an adult you trust. Better to be uncool than unsafe!
  • It’s never too late to tell someone if something makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • There are people who can help. Report child abuse or find somebody who can give you advice and support.
Great advice for us all. Cheerio!


Updates Updates and more Updates

I've been busy all week fine tuning and adding to my main web site over at Some of the great new changes I've already talked about - you hear it here first, folks! I've added a book review section that currently contains a number of good books about safety online with a slant toward protecting your kids. There's also now a links page where I'll be adding new sites of interest as I come across them. Go take a look and let me know what you think.

Have a great weekend.


For your Grown Up Einsteins

Any parent with kids under six know exactly what I mean when I mention Baby Einstein. Not only is our six month old starting to enjoy Bard and the gang, but our three and a half year old still gets a kick out of watching his old favorites - although the Little Einstein series is his "favourite in the whole wide world forever". Anyway, Julie Clark who founded the company has a new venture and is now pitching educational safety programs along with her partner John Walsh who you'll probably remember from the more grown up television program America's Most Wanted. Anyway their products are great and you can check them out here. There's currently two products available. One about dealing with strangers and the other about how to be safe online. Which is exactly why I'm mentioning it here. I've added a link over on the left and will also provide more info on my web site: for those who want to check it out later.


What it's all about

My son, who's now three and a half has taken a strong liking to sitting at the "grown up" computer to play games. There are a couple of great sites affiliated with tv channels and production companies that have wonderful content for kids and these are exactly the sort of things that we want to encourage our kids to do - good. clean, wholesome fun on the internet.

The problem of course is that by using the grown up computer they also have access to a whole lot more. That's why I've given him my old laptop for playing games on (after all in this day and age, computers are nearly worthless by the time you open the box!). It's perfect for him to use because we can move it around the house depending on where his sister is sleeping at the time. And, because it isn't hooked up to the internet or anything else, I know exactly what he's playing with at any given time. The problem is that the real appeal for an almost 4 year old is to feel like he's all grown up and can do the same things as mom and dad. And that means using the same things as mom and dad - including the grown up computer in my home office.

Anyway, the point of this long story is that yesterday afternoon, in a real generous mood - or maybe in a desperate situation - I let him poke away with the mouse while his little sister bounced around in her bouncy fun chair in one corner of the room and I looked over some reports in the other. Sounds like the perfect model, right.... wrong.

A click or two on the wrong spot and before you know it my computer genius was surfing around all over the CNN web site. Innocent enough, until you think about the wide range of adult level content he could find there. I'm not talking porn, but there are all sorts of bloody war images and other things that can be disturbing for a youngster.

Now, I'm not suggesting we need to screen out a news site from our kids. The point is that in complete innocence, a very young child had found his way from learning about the abc's to something much different and inappropriate. And all this while I was sitting just a few feet away.

This is a perfect example of why we need to be careful about what our kids are doing online. We need to all be aware of the possibilities and pay attention. Our kids won't always be three, and we can't always be in the room when they're online. So be careful and be aware.


My Friend in Canada, eh.

Remember those old jokes about having a boyfriend from Canada... yeah Canada, that's it... he's from Canada... that's why you can't meet him... Well, actually I have a good freind from there who put me in touch with a great communications consultant who's been helping me with my web site and organizing this blog. The reason I mention it is that he let me know about an organization there called KINSA which is a sort of lobbying group trying to protect kids from internet porn. They are trying to change legislation and provide resources to keep people informed. While the site may be geared toward the folks up north, the information is still invaluable, so check it out. I've added their site to my Friends and Favourites list over on the left. I apprecate the great suggestion and will be looking for more site like it to help you out. If you know of a good site, let me know and maybe I'll add it here too. Keep your eye on my main web site because I plan to add a similar link page there soon.


To Read or to Sleep... that is the question

So I'm thinking of adding book reviews at my web site and the blog. Another great idea I had while rocking my 6 month old to sleep last night at 3:27 am and staring at the bookshelf. Or at least I think it was a great idea... maybe I was just so sleep deprived that I only dreamed it was a good idea.

There are a number of good tools and resources for parents who want to take more control of heir computers to make it safer and more enjoyable for kids. I've got a few books on my shelf right now and I'm sure there are many others available. But, just like products and services, some are good and some are bad and some just aren't right for you. A good review or two might be a great help. At least that's my idea, anyway. So let me put it to you... I have two questions.

1. Is a book review a good idea or was I just too sleep to recognize how bad it was?
2. Should I include links to book sellers like Amazon, Indigo and Borders? If you think a link is a good idea, what online sellers do you like best?

And of, course if you have any good ideas of your own to share let me know.

Have a great day. Cheers.


So, here we are. My second posting. This blog thing is pretty neat. I was awake all night last night thinking up things to talk about and ways to communicate better with you and the users of my web site.

Well, I'm not going to implement all my great ideas right away, but I do want you to know that I just finished uploading some new changes to the site

Now that I have a blog, I thought I had better include some links and information about it at that location. Check it out. And let me know what you think.


Welcome to my Kid Friendly Internet Blog!

This site is affiliated with our main web site and will be updated regualarly by me, Sydney.

Are your kids safe when they're online? That'w what our web site is all about. And this blog will be a great forum to discuss those concerns in more detail and in a more relaxed setting.

Here, I'll post suggestions, ideas, product reviews and other information as it comes available. I hope you enjoy it.

Who is Sydney, you ask? Well my name is Sydney Walsh and I operate the a web site dedicated to makeing the internet a safe and secure place for kids. I founded the site beacuse I wanted to help protect my family and my friend's families. The web is full of lots of information that's just plain usesless. And that's the good kind. The bad kind is downright misleading. So I wanted a place to go to to find real honest and helpful information. So I started as a place where you and I can go to and get the stuff we need as parents to do right by our kids.

So why the blog? Well, a web site is a great place to put information, but it isn't really set up to share opinions or ideas. This blog will let me do that with you. And will let you do that with me, too. And I hope this back and forth dialogue will help me make my kid friendly internet site a better and more useful place.

So... welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy.