Archive for November, 2011

Danger: Spiders! Keeping Kids Safe on the Worldwide Web

 

Your kids won't see who is preying on them, so vigilance is imperative

Singer/Songwriter Melissa Manchester has a famous song titled A Mother and Father’s Prayer in which she sings

Would you please take them under wing

Watch over them especially

Keeping them safe from everything

This is a mother’s prayer

 

The world can seem overwhelming for a parent trying to protect their child.  However, being proactive can bring back a feeling of empowerment.  One danger parents may not always consider is the potential harm lurking on the internet.  It is real and has the potential to devastate lives..

A spider weaves elaborate webs to capture unsuspecting creatures so that they can consume them.  While the worldwide web has transformed our lives and placed enormous amounts of information at our fingertips, the comparison of the perilous aspects of its accessibility to a spider’s web is important.  With the freedom of expression and information comes the risk of harm to adults through online fraud scams discussed elsewhere here and to children through online predators.

How can we instill in our kids a confidence and faith in humanity while still protecting them from harm, and even from themselves?  The worldwide aspect of the web means that no single government is able to restrict what people in other countries can post.  Consequently, those who wish to prey upon innocent victims are able to maneuver with alarming ease and can do a lot of damage.  Here are some general rules families should abide by:

  • Think twice before giving kids, even teens,  personal computers with web access in their bedrooms.  They should only be allowed to go online when adults are present and in a shared space such as the living room.  It should be clear that at any time the child’s internet use could be monitored.  Tracking software and parental controls are available.
  • Kids should not be given internet access on cell phones.  Many parents now choose to give their kids mobile phones for emergency and ease of communication between parent and child, but they should not have unfettered access to the internet.
  • Parents should have frequent, ongoing dialogue about the internet with their kids.  The positive attributes of the web should be balanced with detailed explanations of how predators can operate.  Just as kids are taught not to talk to strangers who approach them in public or take candy from them, they should not talk to strangers online.

           

PFCU CFO Robert Norris says he explained to his son that allowing him unmonitored access to the internet would be like placing a stack of adult magazines in his bedroom and asking him not to look at them, and then shutting the door.  “It isn’t fair to him”, he reasoned.

One huge culprit is file-sharing.  In this, the spider is actually spawning many other spiders and they create more webs at an alarming rate, but they all come back to your computer, bringing more hazards!  People love the concept of being able to connect to computers owned by individuals all over the world and quickly gaining access to music, software, images or documents in which they share an interest with others.  Part of the problem lies in the way file-sharing works.  In many cases, you are literally handing control of your computer over to someone else and allowing them to get into all your files, as well as loading anything they want onto your computer.  They can easily upload something illegal onto your database, whether it’s unlawfully acquired intellectual property or even illegal pornographic material.  Once this material is on your computer, it can quickly be shared with others who are connected to the file-sharing network.  This now makes you a distributor of the shared material in the eyes of the law.  One can see how this can quickly become a recipe for disaster. The best way to steer clear of this kind of trouble is to avoid file-sharing sites altogether. 

An article on Kidshealth.org sites the example of a child searching for ‘Lego” and making a typographical error that the search engine auto-corrects to the word ‘legs’.  Now the child may be hit with a barrage of inappropriate images. 

Parental control settings can be a valuable tool but do not rely on them alone. 

Stay involved in your child’s online experience.   The internet can be a wonderful place if approached correctly.  Stay informed and keep your kids informed so that they make the right choices.

Rest assured that PFCU is doing all we can to keep our members safe online. Check out the Kid’s Privacy Policy on our website.  The safety and well-being of our kids is all of our responsibility.

Lyrics from A Mother’s and Father’s Prayer by Melissa Manchester and Karen Taylor-Good

© Copyright 2004 Song Guru Music/Bug/Windswept Music  Used by permission