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 www.kidfriendlyinternet.com 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 www.kidfiendlyinternet.com. 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: www.kidfriendlyinternet.com 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 www.kidfriendlyinternet.com

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 www.kidfriendlyinternet.com 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 www.kidfriendlyinternet.com 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.