Laws alone can’t save the online children
While Congress has made efforts to protect children on the Internet, such as the passage of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires verifiable parental consent before personally identifiable information can be collected from children online, parents should not sit back and assume that the law alone will safeguard their children from cyber perils. Rather, parents need to be vigilant in teaching their children well what to do and not do on the Internet.
According to Johsua Finer, President of Software4Parents.com, while most parents are concerned about their children viewing pornography on the Web, there is a much greater danger — the danger of absolute strangers contacting their children for highly improper purposes.
Thus, Mr. Finer points to statistics that show that while one out of four children may have seen naked people and people having sex on the Internet, worse still, one out of five children have been sexually solicited online. Indeed, in May, 2002, a child’s death was attributed to someone who contacted the child on the Internet.
While parents generally urge their children not to talk to strangers, Mr. Finer points out that due to the anonymity of the Internet, children “talk” to strangers frequently when they are online. What is a parent to do?
Mr. Finer suggests the following safety tips for parents:
• Instruct your child never to reveal personally identifiable information, such as name, address, and phone number on the Internet.
• Communicate often with your child about activities you permit and do not permit online, and especially with whom your child can communicate online.
• Locate computers in public places in your home so that Internet usage by your child can be observed.
• Make sure that your child’s screen name, email address and instant message name do not reveal information such as gender, age, hobbies or anything that is related to your child.
• Use technology for protection, as discussed below.
Mr. Finer believes that technology can help parents protect their children from Internet dangers.
For example, monitoring software allows a parent to actually review of child’s Internet usage. While some people might feel that this violates a child’s trust and privacy, others believe that it is better to keep children safe than to insulate their electronic activities. Mr. Finer recommends Spector PRO as the first choice for monitoring software.
Filtering software also can be used to block inappropriate Web sites containing pornography, violence and other distasteful content. Of course, this blocking software is not perfect, as it can at times inadvertently block decent content or fail to block inappropriate content. Mr. Finer’s first choice when it comes to filtering software is Cyber Sentinel.