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How do you keep your kids safe online?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 2, 2007 7:21 AM PDT

CNET recently launched a special Living with Technology feature page: Keep your kids safe online. CNET's guide explores the threats and explains how to help your children surf safely.

This guide is very helpful, and I'd like to bring this up as a topic of discussion.

With more and more growing concerns about children's safety online, what methods do you have in place (through software monitoring and controls or parental guidance and supervision) to keep kids safe online and ensure that they do not fall victim to Net predators, online bullies, and so forth?

Please share your tips and personal methods and strategies in this discussion. And if you've ever had a frightening experience or a close call regarding your kids being online victims, please share those with us, so that we all can get a glimpse of how real this problem is. The more knowledge that parents can share among one another, the better we will all be at protecting our children online.

Thank you!

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Keeping kids safe on-line
by gg99gg / April 4, 2007 8:19 AM PDT

The new windows vista home premium comes with a great system. it filters through every site that they go on, stops them from downloading and listening to things without a password that only I know, and it only applys to non-administrator account's, and the account type can only be changed by an administrator! This is the best system to use!

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I agree and highly recommended to parents
by Donna Buenaventura / April 4, 2007 3:35 PM PDT

Parental Control in Windows Vista is one of the new feature in Windows that I will likely recommend to parents. It allows a parent to configure various restrictions on what their kids can do on the computer.


For parents who do not wish to upgrade to Vista (yet), they should use Internet content filtering then personally guide the kids. Don't leave kids unattended even they are at home only in front of the computer with internet connection. There are dangers on the net from porn ads, adult sites, gambling and many more.

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Education, interaction, monitoring and protection.
by SurfSafely / April 14, 2007 12:15 AM PDT

Most of us who are engaged on the front lines of Internet Safety will chant the same mantra.

Education: Builds competence and confidence, necessary traits when approaching tasks foreign in nature as it is for most parents trying to help guide their children in cyberspace. Cyber what? That place where minds connect via the Internet. Like any physical neighborhood, there are places parents should allow their children to roam for the benefits that it returns, and places they must help them steer clear of for the perils that lurk there.

Interaction: Builds trust. If they don't trust your judgement, they won't follow your direction. Only problem is interaction also takes time; Time many parents are simply too lazy to devote or too burdened with acquiring wealth rather than striving for a higher quality of life. This one comes down to values and priorities. What's more important? Working extra hours to drive a BMW instead of a Ford? Or driving a Ford and having that extra time to spend with your children?

Monitoring: Also part of interaction. Children should know they are under their parents protection which creates a comfort zone for them to operate in. Just as in the real world, so too in Cyberspace. It is generally prudent to incorporate some form of monitoring. Whether it be locating one computer in a heavy traffic area of the home for Internet access or monitoring software, children should know they are accountable for their actions. It is rarely a good idea to install monitoring software secretly. If they find out you have just thrown away a great deal of trust that it may have taken months or even years to build.

Protection: Stuff happens. There's no way to completely avoid it. All one can really do is their best to prevent it. Kids riding their bikes without a helmet are more likely to crack their skull when they fall. The goal is not to fall but to protect in case of the fall. Computers without any filtering or antivirus are more likely to stumble across inappropriate material or contract computer viruses and trojans. For younger children, the TUKI web browser is an ideal part of a parents portfolio of tools. It also makes sense to use a good antivirus product such as Trend-Micro which I personally reviewed at http://www.surfsafely.com/ , filtered search engines such as mine at the same URL which will then branch into Google SafeSearch and other fine resources.

Restrictions: Build distrust, foster resentment and provide incentive to circumvent. By restrictions I mean unreasonably imposed time limits or filtering so tight the only web address one can visit is disney.com. If you reach this point where the child simply will not obey and will circumvent every measure you impose, not even canceling your Internet service and discarding your computer will stop him or her. Children are intelligent and resourceful. They will get their fix at a friend's house or Internet caf

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kids safe online
by je52765 / April 4, 2007 5:24 PM PDT

i think they need a domain called .kid that is geared for younger kids.
have only kid stuff. form a panel of teachers and
others, like pediatricians child psycatrists, parents. to judge what is appropriate for young kids. form guildlines to follow for organizations to apply for a .kid domain. keep all the garbage out(limit advertising). you should be able to set a filter that only lets a computer on a .kids only domain. if google can search billions of websites for certian words. there should
be a way to monitor the domain for inappropriate content. if found they
lose their domain. i think registered child preditors should be banned from computers. or forced to filter so they can not get on a .kid domain the authorities can monitor preditors internet use an if found on a .kid site that violates their probation and off to jail they go.

if a child has a email account a parent should be able to set up who is allowed to send incomming(and outgoing) mail. all the rest gets deleted. i wish i can set my email up that way

my daughter has a email account at her school which she can keep in contacted with her friends(and she has been told that every thing she does in email is monitored). i will not let her on myspace or any other
public social website. her social life is with her school friends and her family and the girls she plays sports with. she mostly uses the internet to do research for school. she uses her cell phone to text her friends more than the computer.

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Myspace is a waste of time but....
by 22LaLa / April 11, 2007 2:04 PM PDT
In reply to: kids safe online

...it is very popular with teens and young teens. You may discover that your daughter has a myspace even if you "don't let her". She can set up a myspace and log in at a friend's house. If she gets one (on your home computer) you can set it up so all the messages come into your email account so you can see who is contacting her. You need to learn how to get her password so you can go into her myspace and take a look. You should know how to look at browser history and you should have parental control software on all your computers at home. Your daughter needs to understand that everything she does on her computer at home is monitored (by you) just like at school. You certainly CAN have control of your daughter's email so that she can receive messages only from people YOU approve.

BTW, Myspace does not allow users younger than 13. And users age 13 to 16 are automatically given "private" spaces that can only be seen by people they approve. Myspace is doing more now to keep that environment safe for its users.

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so wrong
by uranai / April 11, 2007 2:50 PM PDT

I think that is soooo wrong. Teenagers deserver privacy too.

When I was 14 I had a lot of stuff I would not wanted to share with my parents. Safe stuff, like whom did I like and if i believe in santa claus.

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Since when is the internet "private"?
by 22LaLa / April 11, 2007 4:54 PM PDT
In reply to: so wrong

I was responding to a parent who did not allow his/her child any social internet connection at all. I was suggesting that the parents learn how the internet, IM, chat, texting, etc works so they can allow their daughter to do this stuff safely just like they would teach any other social skill. Like the telephone: they let her use the phone but they don't listen in on conversations because they know who their daughter calls or texts. AND they pay the phone bill where all the phone numbers are listed right on the bill. But if they are clueless about computers how will they have any way to keep her safe or teach her good social skills she needs to learn?

Kids are on the internet far far younger than 14 and if nobody is watching over them, they can end up with some pretty goofy notions.

For example, it seems that someone led you to believe that internet communication is private. When you were a kid, surely your parents taught you that privacy on the internet is an illusion. Not only could nearly anybody easily access your deepest emailed secrets about Santa Claus, but your belief in Santa is STILL residing on a server somewhere and probably on many other computers besides that - even if you thought you deleted that message. The general rule of thumb is not to put anything into an electronic message that you wouldn't want published on the front page of the New York Times.

What is your plan for your children?

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Deserve Privacy??
by TerryD64 / April 12, 2007 2:07 AM PDT
In reply to: so wrong

Children and Teenagers especially have absolutely no right to privacy except when using the toilet. As a parent of three kids 23, 21, and 12 I can assure that there were regular room inspections both with and without them knowing it. When challenged by them about their "right to privacy", I reminded them it is NOT their room, it's mine as I pay the bills and I'm the one ultimately responsible for ALL of their activity whether in public or private. I made sure from early on that my children had no right or expectation to privacy while living in my house. While this may seem a bit harsh, I later learned when talking to my children that actually appreciated my concern and involvement in their lives.

Safeguarding your children isn't being nosy or snooping, it's called being a loving, responsible, caring parent.

Regarding the Internet, I have never used any parental control software and I won't install it. The best method is to keep the computer in a publicly accessible space like the family room, den, or office, with the monitor pointed at the door or where anyone else in the room or walking by can see what is going on. When infractions of family rules are encountered (as they inevitably are) the parent is afforded an opourtunity to teach their children the values they feel will help their children in life and how to make their own decisions.

I will never abdicate my role as a parent to a software developer I don't know much less a multi-national conglomerate with it's own agenda.

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Yes all human beings deserve privacy
by NeoGaia / April 29, 2007 8:09 AM PDT
In reply to: Deserve Privacy??

Yes teenagers deserve privacy. The best thing to do is to TALK (wow what a novel idea) about safety on the internet and teach them not to talk to weird strangers who solicit sex.

I am 18 and am a teenager & I think the idea of not allowing social networking is ridiculous. If you educate your kids they will not meet up with child predators.

I think the your "children are your property" idea is completely wrong and ********. You don't own them. If you aren't going to given them some level of privacy they won't develop into healthy adults.

You know they are human beings & not your property.

If someone like you were my parent I doubt I would be able to have felt free enough to write a political blog read by thousands of people & ended up going to Georgetown. (why because kids don't tend to spread their wings or be as creative with their parents breathing down their necks)

American needs to let up on the parents have the right to be awful dictators to their children unless they hit them attitude. Trust & compassion are necessary or your children will backlash.

I go to a private school & those people whose parents gave them some privacy but protected them tend to make better decisions than kids whose parents gave them no privacy (they are the ones who tend to make all kinds of stupid decisions in college because there parents were overprotective.

This is a country about freedom, if you want a country that is about no privacy & complete safety then go to somewhere else cause that is not how this country is.

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Mark 1 Eyeball
by Professor Curt / April 4, 2007 11:28 PM PDT

Technology (hardware and software) is great. But nothing beats the Mark 1 eyeball of a concerned parent. My 2 children are older now, but when they were young the PC was in the living room where I could see what they were doing on-line. I knew the ID's of their on-line friends and, if I didn't recognize a name, I'd ask. I would be watching TV or reading or doing paperwork, and I could look over and see exactly what website they were visiting. I saw no reason to let them have the PC in their rooms; I wanted it where I could monitor what they were doing. They were not allowed on-line when no one was home; and they knew I'd find out if they were!
A concerned parent is still the best Child On-line Protection Act there is.

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by Archus / April 11, 2007 11:13 PM PDT
In reply to: Mark 1 Eyeball

This is by far the absolute best recommendation to anyone. I even said as much in my post.

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Concerned Parents are the best defense & plug for K9 Filter
by Cruton / April 13, 2007 1:14 AM PDT
In reply to: Mark 1 Eyeball

An activiliy concerned parent is the best filter there is. Many parents are scared of "infringing" on the privacy of their kids, but I think that it is hogwash. You can still trust your kids and activily monitor their activity on the net. Also this will prepare them for the workplace where monitoring software will likely track everysite the visit and every email sent or recieved.

We have the K9 Web Filter from Blue Coat on our computers (http://www.k9webprotection.com). The best thing about this program is that it is free to use and we haven't noticed a change in the speed of our connection. If you are looking for a good free filtering service, try out this program.

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I like the iBoss filter
by InsertCleverUserNameHere / April 5, 2007 1:27 AM PDT

I have an older teenager, with a PC now in his room. I keep close tabs -- I check his history and downloads frequently, and I use a filter I'm very satisfied with:

I've been using a hardware filter device called the iBoss, from a company called iPhantom, for about six months. It costs $80, with a $5/month subscription. It sits between the modem and the router, so it filters all the devices in the house. There's no software to install (the controls are all accessed from the browser), and it WORKS! It's niether perfect nor flawless, but I give it an A- overall.

To supplement the iBoss filter, I recently ordered Snoopstick monitor software from Cybersitter. Haven't received it yet, so I don't know how good it is, but it comes with a 30-day return. I'll post a reply here later, with my comments on the Snoopstick

Check out the iBoss. And CNet -- please create a listing for the iBoss, so I can post a more thorough review.

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Er, sorry. But I think you paid a bit much.
by Archus / April 11, 2007 11:16 PM PDT

Um, hate to break this to you, but you're paying to much. The Linksys WRt54GS wireless router will do this for you at 60 bucks and no subscription. Plus a lot more.

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by superhifi / April 24, 2007 5:27 AM PDT


I also have the iBoss and have been using it for over a year now. The Linksys WRT is NOT a content filter you would even consider. Typical router with so called controls. If you enjoy entering all the site you "Think" your kids will visit then its the one for you. Have you even purchased one to make this claim? Are you currently using the filter? I read alot of reviews and am activlely searching for great filtering and have to say that yes the iBoss has limitations in that I would like to monitor chat rooms conversations but if you have 3 kids each with there own computer, its really cheap for what you get. I was using software but besides it being bypassed by my kids with software hacks and the HUGE feeling of intruding on my kids to install it on there computer, I felt as if I was degrading my trust in them and babying them. This was installed, non intrusive, and VERY powerful. Suggest a try

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Look at this link
by superhifi / April 24, 2007 5:40 AM PDT
In reply to: iBoss
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by mstarcom / October 17, 2007 6:34 PM PDT

Linksys used to contract with Netopia for filtering on this device, but the filterning service has long been discontinued. Also, back when they did offer it, it was not free.

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...Bad experience with the Snoopstick
by InsertCleverUserNameHere / April 12, 2007 3:08 AM PDT

Snoopstick didn't work worth squat -- it failed to install properly on two different computers; it shut down the internet connection on both; then it woulnd't UNINSTALL, and I had to use System Restore to get rid of it. If it worked as advertised, it would be great, but I'm never touching it again.

However, the company did right by me -- they returned my call almost immediately, walked me through the restore process on both pc's, and refunded me the purchase price. If only the product worked as well as the customer service!

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Most Important Topic!
by yukiuk / April 5, 2007 3:30 AM PDT

This is such a relevant topic and one, I'm sure will continue to grow in importance. My kids are grown up now but my grandchildren are all heavily into computers and the net. My eldest son has 5 children and he expressed to me his concerns over them accessing inappropriate sites. He was also concerned about their use of 'chat programs' and the dodgy characters who use these sites. So I did some investigating, and this is what I found:

There is a very good FREE program available called "K9 Web Protection" which denies access to any sites within designated genres. It is password protected and, as long as the kids don't know the password they cannot disable it, change any of the settings or access any banned sites. The parent or guardian, however can still visit any site they wish by simply applying the password. My son now has this program installed and it works wonderfully well, I highly recommend it to any concerned parent.

Programs which monitor and report chat room activity are another matter. There are no freebies that I can find and there are lots of commercial releases to choose from. After some serious scrutiny I decided to try "Stealth Chat Monitor 1.5", it costs $19.95 (which is at the lower end of the scale) and offers a 5 day free trial. I found that it worked very well. It is well hidden and can only be accessed by applying a designated password. I struck a small problem when it would not display the reports, so I sent an email to their 'support team'. Their prompt reply indentified and explained the reason for the problem and gave a succesful solution. I was all ready to buy the product and began the process when I was directed to their registration page, that's when I struck a snag. Boy, did they ask for some personal information, too much, much more than I deemed was necessary or warranted. Some people may not be put off by that but I am always wary of giving TOO much information so, after consultation with my son we decided not to go ahead and have temporarily put the project on hold. Sorry I can't be of more help, but if anyone knows of a good and inexpensive chat monitor program they can recommend please let me know. Good luck to all you concerned parents (and grand parents), I hope my contribution has been some help.

Regards JIMBO

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A way to keep children safe
by crazyheart232 / April 13, 2007 9:55 AM PDT
In reply to: Most Important Topic!

There is a way to keep our children safe online for those that are interested visit tuki.com

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I Used Two Things When My Kids Were Younger..
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / April 5, 2007 3:58 AM PDT

First, I used a HOSTS file to block inappropriate sites from being accessable on any browser.. (I also "hid" the folder where the HOSTS file resides and setup "limited" accounts for each user..)

For those interested, see the link below:

How To Use A HOSTS File

Second, I had the computer setup in a room where we all could see any activity going on.. Nothing was secret. At the time, we had ONE computer and ONE television.. Both were in a common room where everyone could see what the other was doing.

I never really had any computer-related problems with either of my girls or the friends they brought over to the house.

Hope this helps.


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by packjazz / April 11, 2007 10:56 PM PDT

In order for the HOSTS file method to work, don't you need to list EACH inapropriate website seperately in the file? If that's the case, there is no way you'd be able to list all of the potentially inapropriate websites on the internet. Maybe I'm not understanding the concept, but this seems like an impractical approach.

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The HOSTS File I Use Already Has Them..
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / April 12, 2007 1:07 AM PDT
In reply to: Impractical?

It's not impractical at all.. EVERY bad site I have problems with is there.. In addition, it's updated frequently.. Currently, the HpHOSTS file I use has 58,523 "bad" sites listed.

Of course, if you know about any additional sites, the HOSTS file can easily be updated...or you can submit the site to the HpHOSTS site and they'll add it to the file.

Hope this helps.


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Not a good idea. New bad site coming out eveyday.
by yuhaian / April 13, 2007 6:53 AM PDT

You cannot catch them all. hosts file can be easily located for a kids with even a few experience on computer.

But I like the list of sites. May be a tiny software in service to block this is a better way. Kids use only limited account. This software have to update its list of bad sites from online.

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Good Idea For All My Customers...HOSTS File Is Updated..
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / April 14, 2007 3:12 PM PDT

...frequently. In fact, we use a HOSTS file in our office environment as well. It prevents almost ALL spyware infections, as well as incorrect surfing of "bad" sites. Still, nothing's perfect...

And if my kids tinkered with the HOSTS file, they lost computer privileges. When my kids were going to junior high school & high school, we only had one computer and they didn't want to take the chance of losing those privileges. Same with my employees at work.

Hope this helps.


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online safety
by 2handsmm / April 5, 2007 12:50 PM PDT

Lee, this is Such a timely topic! As a single parent of an 11yo daughter, I am so interested in tools/ideas that can help this one pair of eyes do a better job of monitoring her internet experiences. I did move her computer down to the living room as her need for internet use grew (schoolwork) this year. I do not allow any instant messaging or chat room use; I can access her email at any time-even remotely since I know her password etc having set up her acct; and have downloaded a free program called HOOPAA that alerts me/sends summary list of all websites she visits. I can block any websites she's visited (or add any as pre-emptive protection) thru their website. It is-and they emphasize that it is-- strictly a monitoring tool- it does Not judge websites or rate them for you-the parent must still stay involved and make those calls.

I chose this program after having tried for a year the Parental Control feature offered by Earthlink, which we found to be too restrictive (& not customizable) for her age range. I know Hoopaa is not the be-all end-all answer, but I feel it's a good next step for us. As others before me have stated, protection definitely needs to start, and end with the continued involvement of parents and maintaining good communication with our children as they grow.

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Perfect Protection...so far
by edadusa / April 6, 2007 11:18 AM PDT

A couple of years ago we got a virus and installed a new wireless router with a good firewall. That router also provided Parental Control software for a small yearly fee ($49). In that time our children (ages 11-16) have never had a bad experience. We had one e-mail slip in just a month ago that showed a side shot of a nude woman (for male enhancements) and that was the first time it has come close to objectionable material. You have the option to block domains that you want, allow those that you agree to, and set those levels for each child (or adult).


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For users who don't use router
by Donna Buenaventura / April 6, 2007 1:44 PM PDT

There is free tools/utilities that will protect kids in visiting bad websites:

1. IE-SPYAD adds a long list of sites and domains associated with known advertisers, marketers, and crapware pushers to the Restricted sites zone of Internet Explorer. Once you merge this list of sites and domains into the Registry, the web sites for these companies will not be able to use cookies, ActiveX controls, Java applets, or scripting to compromise your privacy or your PC while you surf the Net. Nor will they be able to use your browser to push unwanted pop-ups, cookies, or auto-installing programs on your PC. It also have adults.reg that has long list of adult sites that is added in the restricted sites of IE.

2. Like Grif said, a 3rd party HOSTS file will help in blocking bad sites:
HOSTS File - replacing the default HOSTS file in Windows will help in stopping the communication with websites that is known to install or inject malware or parasites.
MVPS Hosts - http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm
hpHosts - http://support.it-mate.co.uk/?mode=Products&p=hphosts

3. SiteHound - this is freeware and they also offer a paid version.
SiteHound - this toolbar will block the site that is known Rogue or Suspect Product distributors. It will also block many other website that posed security threat to the user. Firetrust offers free and paid versions of SiteHound. Browser supported: IE, Firefox
Note: SiteHound will automatically block the user of viewing/loading the porn sites too in real-time that is known to its database as porn sites.

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Reply to: For users who don't use router
by yukiuk / April 7, 2007 8:49 AM PDT

Hi Donna - The issue here is children accessing inappropriate sites, NOT spyware and adware.

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Sometimes They Are The Same Thing
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / April 8, 2007 1:13 AM PDT

...and overlapping of the two is hard to define. Even legitimate sites will load inappropriate spyware/adware and other popups that children shouldn't see. Some of the newer vulnerabilities have been placed on hacked websites.. Adware commonly loads "redirects" to porn sites. They're one and the same.

I don't distinguish between the two.. If the site is unwanted, block them all. It's one of the reasons I use a HOSTS file.. All unwanted sites are blocked.. If you want to allow a site that's currently blocked, remove it from HOSTS. If you want to ADD a site, add it to HOSTS.

Hope this helps.


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