Caution! Kids Online
Priyanka Tilve | 27 November 2010
Caution! Kids Online
With the ever increasing number of children logging on to the web, software like the Onlinefamily from Norton comes in handy to keep a vigil on their online activities.
By Priyanka Tilve
In the real world, parents often drill words of caution into the minds of their young children, such as “don’t talk to strangers” and “don’t go there; it’s not safe”. But surprisingly, parents are not so foresighted when it comes to the cyber world, as they allow their children unrestricted access to the Web. Already, we are witnessing an increase in cyber crime, and what’s alarming is the rise in the number of children being victimized on the Web.
It goes without saying that young children today are far more tech savvy then previous generations were at the same age. And by looking at Internet penetration figures, the growth in recent years speaks for itself. While parents today are concerned about the amount of time their children spend on the Internet, they do not seem to be concerned about what their children are doing when they’re online.
A recent survey conducted by Norton in over 14 countries underlines some startling facts. According to the survey, over 77 percent of children in India have had a negative online experience. While the majority of parents believe that their children spend time playing games or doing school work, an astonishing 68 percent of children download music and video games online. This ever-increasing online presence exposes the children to threats such as identity theft, cyber bullying, stalking by pedophiles, etc.
Over the years, we have witnessed several instances where adults posing as teenagers have befriended young children and have coerced them into inappropriate activities or even duped them into divulging sensitive financial details of their families. This is particularly dangerous since, according to the Norton Online Family Report 2010, children feel that their actions online will go unnoticed and cannot be traced back to them. The survey further reveals that not many of them are aware that few things are ever permanently deleted and that anything they say or do can come back to haunt them later. Just as there are set rules in physical environments, you need to set rules for the cyber world as well.
And with this aim in mind, Norton has responded with a free Web monitoring tool called onlinefamily.norton.com. This service monitors Web surfing as well as instant message conversations and interactions on social networking sites. It allows you to create up to ten accounts and once activated, you will be able to see a list of all the websites visited by the user of each account. If you don’t like a particular site, you can easily block it and it even allows you to customize settings for each child’s account depending on his or her age. It also tracks words, terms and phrases your kids search for online, which gives you an idea about their online interests.
Most importantly, it allows you to monitor their activities on social networking sites as well as online forums. You can easily monitor what they chat about and with whom. OnlineFamily also includes the option to allow users to chat only with people you explicitly approve of. As far as social networking sites are concerned, it gives you an overview of your child’s profiles and how they represent themselves (name, age, and profile picture). If you are worried about children spending a lot of time online, you can easily restrict that here by setting time limits for usage. Once the set limit has been crossed, it will automatically cause the system to shut down. You can continue to monitor their online activities when you are away as you will receive email alerts in case your child ignores a warning or tries to visit a blocked web site.
This may seem like a spying tool, but unlike other monitoring sites, it’s not hidden and the children are aware of it, making it very transparent. Parents will have to communicate openly about safe Internet practices to ensure that children don’t feel like they aren’t trusted or their privacy isn’t being respected.