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?