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Protect Your Kids - Social Networks Can Be Harmless Fun Yet Extremely Dangerous
by Andrew T. Sieveke

Simply searching Twitter for the terms “home alone tonight” displays hundreds of people who are broadcasting to the world that they are going to be home alone. Some of them are kids, like this example (photo and username blurred out):

Are your kids announcing publicly when they are home alone? Do they have far too much information posted on their Facebook or MySpace page?

Recent studies have shown that more than 40% of teens send sexually suggestive messages online. Are your kids?

How do you monitor your computers to know if your kids are posting too much information or inappropriate information?

For many parents, this can be a difficult balancing act. Do you give your kids more trust and freedom online and risk them being exposed to online dangers, or do you maintain tighter control and protect against some of the risk?

Just like businesses monitor their networks to ease liability concerns, you must protect yourself and your family online. You are the owner of your Internet service and computer network; you have not only the right but also the responsibility to monitor your network.

It may be true that your children are not posting inappropriate content online. But monitoring what happens on your computers will also help you detect someone else communicating inappropriately with your kids. Kids’ youthful naivety may prevent them from detecting a dangerous situation – one that you will notice.

So clearly, monitoring your network is in the best interest of both you and your children, and this can be done in a way that doesn’t compromise any trust between you. Simply explain to your kids that it is your responsibility to make sure your network is safe, and let them know that you will be monitoring the traffic.

There are various tools available that allow you to control your computers at home. These tools can restrict the times that your children can log on to the computer. They can filter inappropriate websites and web content. Some of these tools will capture screen shots so you can see exactly what your kids see while they are online, and some of the tools will even send you text message notifications.

One of the newest parental control tools to enter the market is from Norton, and they are offering a free trial of the service until 2010. To sign up for your free trial, visit this site: https://onlinefamily.norton.com/familysafety/loginStart.fs

Another option that I recommend is Spectorsoft’s Spector Pro, which you can purchase here: http://www.spectorsoft.com/products/SpectorPro_Windows/

About the author:

Andrew T. Sieveke is the Founder of Stop Loss, an information security company specializing in small businesses and home systems. You can read his full bio and contact him with any questions at his company’s blog, http://StopLossCO.com/blog. And you can follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/andrewsieveke.