Friday, November 24, 2006

Social networking and keeping children safe online!

How important is social networking for the k12 students of tomorrow? Myspace and Facebook have been deemed inappropriate in most schools throughout the United States. When administrators and others hear individuals mention either of the aforementioned they often shutter, as well they should. Myspace and Facebook have the potential to cause and create safety issues for our students due to their very nature and limited control. Fortunately or unfortunately, many students have these accounts at home with or without parental consent.

Nevertheless, while students are at home, schools are not responsible for their online activities unless they are using school sites or materials. Should educators be concerned? Yes. We don’t want anything to happen to our students while they are at school or at home. However, at home parents should take an active interest in their children’s online activities. The following is a list of things that parents can do at home to help keep their children safe while they are online.

1. Set your browser up with safety in mind
All major browsers (e.g. internet explorer, mozilla firefox, netscape navigator, apple safari, etc.) have built in safety (parental) controls.
You can go into your browser or browsers and set these controls to keep your children safe.

How to set up parental setting in Internet Explorer
If you are using Explorer 5.5 you should upgrade!
If you are using Explorer 6 Click Here!
If you are using Explorer 7 with Vista parental controls are built in to the operating system. Maybe a legitimate reason to upgrade! Click Here!

Will changing browser settings help? In some cases yes and in some cases no. All sites do not have ratings. What does this mean? If the site does not have a rating it will most likely be blocked with or without malicious content. Could this be a problem? Yes. A lot of great sites including school sites do not have ratings. Should you use this function? It is entirely up to you as a parent. If do decide to use the settings, be aware that you can go in and allow sites that you know are safe (e.g. your child’s school site, school blogs, and school wikis).

2. You have the option to purchase filtering software (e.g. net nanny, cyber patrol, etc.) for your home computer to filter inappropriate sites.
The software can be bought at your local computer store or online. The cost is less than fifty U.S. dollars.

This software filters a majority of the bad sites but it is not fail safe. Is it worth the money? It’s your money and your children; you will have to decide for yourself if you want to use these services.

3. Use monitoring software (e.g. Safe Net) to police your children’s online activities.

Monitoring software doesn’t stop your children from going to the wrong sites, but it does show where your children have been. Of course, you can use browser histories to look at the same information for free. The only drawback is that tech savvy older children can delete the history before you get to it if they are so a minded.

4. Parents can also purchase lock down software to keep your children off the Internet.

Lock down software controls applications and is password protected. You can give your children access to the Internet as you see fit. Of course, this type of software also prevents online learning, so I don’t recommend it.

5. Talk to your children about Internet etiquette, appropriate Internet activities, and monitor your students while they are at the computer.

Number five is the most important. Parents need to talk to their children and monitor their Internet activities. Talk isn’t cheap if you are educating and keeping your children safe. Start when they are young while they still like and respect you. Good luck!

Last but not least, social networking on the Internet is a great educational tool if done correctly. Parents, teachers, and school systems should promote appropriate social networking tools like educational blogs and wikis. If used correctly these tools have unlimited instructional value for our children.

The following links should help you and your children remain safe while surfing the Net from home. Enjoy!

Links: Kids Health, GetNetWise, SafeKids, KidsCom, Internet Safety

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2 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

Read your article and thought you might want to take a look at our site- www.webwatcherkids.com we do all the things that you are recommending separate programs for all in one package. Monitoring, filtering, blocking- and our software is compeletly invisble once installed. It was written for counter terrorism and we are the only ones that have remote monitoring, so parents can view the data from wherever they are connected to the internet.

Check it out, and please send me an e-mail if you have questions. andrew.wells (@) webwatcherkids.com

Great article by the way!

11:54 AM  
Blogger WBishop said...

Thanks for the comment. Your product looks great. I noticed it costs 99 dollars. I also noticed that it does or says that it will do what most of the other products does combined. A all in one package type deal as you mentioned. Thanks for the comment. I am sure that some of the readers will be interested in your product...

2:06 AM  

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