September 18, 2009

Internet Safety 101SM Featured in the Examiner
 

Reality Check: practical ways to protect children from online pornography (Part 2)

 
 

Photo by Beth K. Vogt

Parents, consider these statistics from a 2006 study:
• One third of Internet users ages 10-17 were exposed to unwanted sexual material.
• More than three-quarters of unwanted exposure topornography happened at home.
• Fifty-five percent of parents said their children’s exposure to unwanted sexual material occurreddespite use of filtering, blocking, and monitoring software.


With more children and teens being exposed to online pornography
, how can parents protect their children from this very real threat?

Despite federal laws that make it illegal for any one younger than 18 to view pornography, in some ways the online world is less safe for children than the neighborhoods they live in.

“Parents need to be educated, involved and engaged,” said Cris Clapp Logan, communications director at Enough is Enough (EIE), a national organization dedicated to protecting children and families online. “Parents can’t think it’s the government’s job, or that filters alone will protect their children online.”

Logan recommends two ways parents can protect their children online.

“Parents don’t realize how smart their kids are—or how pervasive pornography is. They need rules and tools,” she said. “Rules are non-technical measures and tools are technical ways parents can protect their children online.”

Rules include:

1. Establish an ongoing dialogue and keep lines of communication open.
2. Supervise computer use of all Internet-enabled devices.
3. Teach your children how to protect personal information posted online and to follow the same rules with respect to the personal information of others.
4. Be sure your children use privacy settings to restrict access to and limit who can view their profiles.
5. Regularly check the online communities your children use, such as social networking and gaming sites, to see what information they are posting.

Tools include:

1. Set age-appropriate filters.
2. Consider using monitoring software, especially if you sense your child is at risk.
3. Periodically check your child's online activity by viewing your browser's history.
4. Set time limits.
5. Consider disallowing access to chat rooms.


Logan advises parents use filters and parental controls on home computers, while being aware of gaming devices too. Kids can access the Internet through PDAsNintendosPlayStations, and their cell phones.

EIE also recommends parental controls include:
• Customizable filters
• Monitoring software
Time-managing controls
Instant Messaging (IM) and chat controls

Any parental conversations or monitoring decisions should be based on a child’s age, Logan said. 
“For a young child, you need to limit access. Set up a white list, or what I call a ‘walled garden.’ Inside the garden might be 10 approved spots your child can go to online,” Logan suggested.

It’s best to have conversations with your children when they are young—but it’s never too late to start, Logan said. “You may have resistance from a ‘tween or a teen, but it’s for their best interest. The Internet is their world. They don’t see a difference between the world offline and the world online.”

Don't forget to read Part 1 of the interview with Cris Clapp Logan, communications director at EIEReality Check: children and the dangers of online porn

For more info: 

Kids Online: Protecting Your Children in Cyberspace by Donna Rice Hughes

Internet Safety 101SM: DVD and Workbook
• Pornography 101
• Predators 101
• The Evolving Web (Web 2.0, Mobile, Social Networking, Gaming)
• Internet Safety “Rules and Tools”
• Additional Features, including recommended resources for parents