Random observations, teachings and musings of a well trained cubicle superhero.

Monday, May 01, 2006

January 5, 2006

Safer Browsing through Technology

Tech Mate
techyJay, a.k.a. “The Cubicle Superhero”, is a self-professed tech junkie with a passion for music and culture Email Jay

With the Internet now accessible from every device we own (including fridges?!) we seem to have all the answers at our finger tips. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can find anything you're looking for, but with a small typo or accidental click, you could end up with more than you bargained for...

It's getting tougher and tougher to protect our children from the harsh realities of the world. The threats of the real world that we desperately try to isolate our children from are easily accessed on the computer services we encourage them to use. Graphic content, bullying, harassment and violence exist online just as they do in the offline world.

Benefits outweigh the risks
However, the benefits of the Internet and online services far outweigh the dangers. Avoiding the Internet would be like asking your child to avoid the museum, because there may be a frightening mummy or skeleton (I have trouble at the ROM). Harnessing the educational and research potential of the Internet is integral for your children's success. With a healthy involvement in your child's online experience and by preparing yourself, and your computer, the risks can be minimized.

Prepare yourself and your kids
Taking a trip to the Family Resource Centre will arm you with the information you need to create a safe browsing experience. This website offers some excellent insight into discussing online threats with your children, and defining rules and strategies. Tips like hitting the back button or only following links on sites you know. More importantly, maintaining a non-judgmental, open dialog with your children will make your child more comfortable coming to you when things happen online that they're not expecting. The Canadian site, "Be Web Aware" also has some fantastic age-specific tips.

Prepare your Computer
Included with the Rogers Yahoo! Online Protection suite is an optional component for Parental Controls. This is a small security and filtering application, downloaded to your computer. After activation, this tool will enable customized profiles specific to each family member.

Setup Profiles and Reports
After creating your child's email address and profile in the Rogers Account Centre, you can define what type of access this email address will be permitted to view. When your child logs in, they will automatically be synchronized to this profile. If you wish, you can also turn on weekly report cards, to see what your child has been accessing and when. If the Internet should only be accessed during certain times, each profile can also be given an online timer. Extra time can easily be approved by parents for those late night study sessions.

For Your Wee Ones
At its youngest age setting (called "kids"), it redirects all addresses to the Yahoo! Kids webpage. This kid-centric portal gives your child pre-screened, age appropriate animation, films, music, sports and a fantastic study zone.

Text Savvy Teens
For your teenagers of varying ages, special pre-defined access levels can be assigned. Within each of these security levels, parents can decide whether they would like to open the restriction to specific types of subject matter. If teachers or textbooks require a specific page, parents can easily add these to an allowed list within that child's profile.

As instant messaging and email become extremely popular in this age category, parents can approve any new contact before they are added to the address book. Within the Yahoo Messenger client, File sharing, video and audio can also be enabled or locked.

Prevention through Education
There are hundreds of cases each month at the Learning Centre in which teens have infected and damaged their computer unknowingly. Beyond the risks associated with viruses, spyware and spam, educating your children on the legal and ethical issues with trading music and films online is extremely important. Your child's formative years will define their opinion of illegal downloading as they age. Music plays an integral part in the life of a teenager, and it's important for them to know that there are safe, inexpensive and legal ways to access music online. Consider the free Rogers Yahoo! LaunchCast Radio Station, or an all-you-can-eat pay subscriptions like the Yahoo! Music Unlimited Service.

With a little patience and preparation, making your computer kid-safe and your kid Internet-safe is a painless and worthwhile effort that will pay off big in the long run.

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