We live in an amazing time with wonderful technologies to greatly improve and enhance our life styles. As always, there’s bad that comes with good, and in a world where we all live in glass houses it’s critical that parents be thoughtful and take necessary precautions to protect their children. For one, we all know there are perverts out there disguising themselves as other kids. There’s also a problem of kids becoming negatively influenced with online pornography, as soft-core pornography (which kids are more likely to be interested in) often ultimately leads to hard-core porn use with disturbing consequences.
The scientific facts are there even if you don’t have a religious foundation for such an opinion. The research to date proves conclusively that pornography is as addictive as any mind altering substance, eliciting the same biochemical response as PCP or any other highly addictive hallucinogenic drug. These studies also show that, similar to drug abuse, increasing doses of a more concentrated and vile nature are needed to provide the same biochemical response in the individual with each successive pornographic experience.
So just what does this mean for children? It means the same thing that it mean with regards to drugs. Early pornographic use can lead (and has lead many) to a lifetime of horrible addiction that can rob them of will power and adversely distort their perspective, leading to poor decisions in critical matters and causing episodes of deep depression. It’s all in the science, and if you don’t believe me, just do a search for “pornography and science” (click here).
|“Within a few hours any 13 year old can develop nearly the same computer competency level as another regardless of their background. Beyond 13 however it’s critical that kids know and use computers on a fairly frequent basis or they will be left behind.”|
How best to meet this challenge? Do you shut your children out of the digital world entirely? Actually, this is not necessarily a bad approach when kids are less than 13-14 years of age. Within a few hours any 13 year old can become nearly as computer competent as another regardless of their background. Beyond 13 however it’s critical that kids know and use computers on a fairly frequent basis or they will be left behind.
How about shutting them off from the Internet entirely? That is also a viable approach if approached right, though there are less draconian ways to do it. A child can use an unconnected computer on a very frequent basis – doing nearly everything they could do with a connected computer. Email of course would be handled through a parent/guardian – and ancient technology, like phones, for communication instead still do exist. There are even services that will convert email messages to phone messages and then send it to a cell phone. Student based research is perhaps even made easier by using an unconnected computer if it is loaded with Encarta, or Encyclopedia Britannica on DVD, etc. Teachers would far prefer those references to a reference to the wikipedia (although you can get wikipedia on DVD – a new one each year). Having them use an unconnected PC whenever they want can help them focus on really learning about the computer, computing, programming, etc… instead of surfing the net and loitering in ineffectual chat rooms.
What you should never do: Never put a net-capable computer in your kid’s bedroom. One way or another they’ll get access to whatever they want no matter how good you think they are. Don’t kid yourself, kids are kids. I kid you not.
|“Don’t kid yourself, kids are kids. I kid you not. Would you tell your kid to never play with guns and then put a loaded one under their bed? Would you?”|
Here’s the multifaceted approach we use at our house. Feel free to use as much of it as you’d like:
- Explain in detail to kids why some parts of the net is a dangerous place with dangerous people, and why porn victimizes and how it alters judgement, alters character, and is socially repugnant. Why? Because they need to protect themselves whenever you can’t because you can’t place filters on their friend’s computers libraries, etc.
- Also, give them a protected environment where they can feel safe in, and where you can feel comfortable that they’re safe. You wouldn’t tell your kid to not play with guns and then put a loaded one under their bed would you? Then get to work:
Method: KidRocket Glubble Client Based Filtering
(Blue Coat k9)
Proxy Server Filtering What is it: Dedicated kid-friendly fullscreen locked-down browser that won’t exit (not a plug-in), that we link to in the startup folder of their XP account. So when they click their account it boots straight up to this browser. See kidrocket.org. Free. A plugin for Firefox. Restricts where kids can go. You can define where it can and can’t go. Free. More flexible than Kid Rocket, and allows your kids to go to alot more places. Be sure to remove other browsers. Filter all content on each computer as it comes in from the internet or as it is requested. You can do this for free with Blue Coat k9 which is one of the best out there. It doesn’t noticeably slow down the browsing experience and is easy to administer. WHETHER YOU DO ANY OF THE OTHERS AT LEAST DO THIS! ITS FREE. Filter all content by setting up a proxy server. Every webpage viewed on your network is automatically routed through this server, There’s no way around it. Think of it as Big brother. You can do it for free with a spare computer and Dansguardian and squid. There are also retail products for doing this. How easy is it: easy somewhat easy very easy For experienced users who know a bit about servers How secure somewhat secure Not very secure, but better than nothing. Pretty secure. Can be circumvented, but not very easily. Very secure. Can’t go around this as long as they’re using your network. Downsides: Very limited. For kids under 12. I don’t think it locks down the user environment. Seems like it might be easily circumvented. Not many Downsides. It’s very easy to override and seldom gives false results, so you ought to put this on every computer in the house. Only Proxy Filtering is better. Takes some server knowledge, but nothing that you can’t learn given enough time.
- Keep all Internet capable computers in public places. Laptops should be off limits (don’t have them take them into their rooms) unless they aren’t Internet capable.
- Provide an Internet-free computer they can do non Internet stuff on (MS Encarta, Homework, Burn Cd’s, create, print, make cards, run CD-ROMS, etc). Ideally this computer will physically have the Internet capable hardware removed so they can do anything they want. Note: once you have it just right – back it up (and create a system restore point) so you can easily to a complete reinstall (this will be necessary from time to time).
- Explain to kids that you’re using a separate program that records all the websites they visit and that you’ll check it regularly. If you have a way to really do this periodically ask them about a site or two that they visited – that will really let them know you’re not blowing smoke.
If you have any more suggestions, (please post them here – click).