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Protecting Your Teens Online

Protecting your children online is extremely important. Do you realize that there are approximately 50,000 child predators online at any one time? This is what law enforcement experts estimate. Now, you may not want to keep your child off the internet altogether,since you recognize the value of it. But you may want to follow some common sense steps, and perhaps invest in some specialized software to protect your child from online predators.

The first step any concerned parent should take is to control the settings. This will prevent your child from accessing girl.com (which is a pornographic site) instead of gurl.com (which is a fun site for teens to look at fashion and other issues important to them). Whitehouse.

com is very different from whitehouse.org, if you think your child is researching current events. If your computer is loaded with Windows version XP (most are), you can start by creating a log. It is a very simple process. At the "Start" command (lower left hand corner of screen), go to "Control Panel", open up user account and then select "Add a New Account".

You can protect this with a password so no one else (your child?) can change the settings. You should set the system up so your child is only granted limited access. This prevents them from changing anything on the computer, as well as from installing any programs on your computer.

On your browser settings you can set a lot of controls as well. The most popular browser is Internet Explorer, so we will discuss this one. Most people recognize the Internet Explorer symbol as the big blue "E". Settings on Internet Explorer can be set to specifically block certain language and any content with sex, nudity or violence. Here is how that is done: open the browser and go to tools/internet options/content. In the Content box, you will see a feature called "enable" In this area, there will be choices pop up that we just mentioned: language, sex, nudity, violence.

If you slide the bar to the left, it will bring it down to zero, which means no such content allowed. Hit the button marked "apply", and this control will be installed. At the general tab, you can enter a password, so that this feature cannot be overridden or changed by anyone but you. There is one problem, in that this may prevent certain search engines like Google to run. You may be able to get a separate browser to eliminate this problem. If, even after all of your precautions, you are still concerned that your child is not protected from undesirable material, you can take it one step further and install specialized software that installs controls to protect your child.

Can you now feel confident that you have done everything in your power to keep your children safe on the internet? If you have followed the tutorial thus far, you have demonstrated that you are a concerned parent and are trying to keep your children safe. The next step is to make sure you monitor their IM (instant messaging) on the internet. Yahoo, AOL, ICQ and MSN love the fact that your (and everybody else's) child loves to use IM. But you have to train your child not to give out any information that will lead anyone to them.

When kids are in chat rooms, they believe that are talking to other kids, but they may be giving out information to dangerous adults. Make sure you have seen and approved your child's online profile. If your child is describing himself or herself in terms of being "cute" or "young", terms that may attract online predators, you may have to step in and have him or her change it. The best kind of profile for young people is one that does not give out any real facts about the person. Your child should not put his or her age or sex on the internet.

Controlling email is more difficult. There may be no total guarantees that unsavory emails may be reaching your child. If you have Outlook Express, a program called "Content Watch" is a good tool. However, your child is probably using hotmail, Yahoo, AOL Gmail or MySpace. In these cases, you need to set your spam filter to the highest level available. You may miss out on some ads that you may want, but that is the price you pay.

The more important issue is to make sure that your child is educated about the dangers of the internet. You should make sure that your child Knows that Britney Spears is not likely to be sending her email and that she should be wary of any such correspondence. If it is not in her regular email folder (which means that Britney looked up her email in order to contact her) but in a junk mail folder, she should just discard it. One of the best free email services that offers a bulit in filter is Mozilla. Content watch software is still a great idea if you want to add an extra layer of security.

Here is an idea I discovered with my four year old. (You'd be surprised how he can surf!) I set up a bookmark system that has all of the websites I would like him to access. It gives him a set path to go to so he is not surfing around just anywhere and seeing things I would not like him to see. You can find a lot of other ones that are suitable for a child as well. It can never be said enough that education is the real key. You may put in as many controls as you like and watch what they are doing on the internet at your house, but there is no guarantee that other parents are doing the same.

Make sure your children understand the dangers involved and also make sure you let the parents of their friends know about your concerns and what you do at your home. Your children need to understand that you are concerned for their safety and that if you and they are not taking the right precautions, they may be putting themselves in danger.

MJ Batta writes on various aspects of MySpace Dangers and manages the website SpyOnYourKids.Net

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