Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How to Protect Kids from Violent Content Online

Today's parents face new threats for their children besides offline stranger danger, children today are now faced with a variety of online threats when they give their children permission to use the Internet to interact with friends or explore the Internet for information gathering. Fortunately there are ways to prevent and limit the risks online, but they are not fool proof. A parents supervision and involvement are still the best line of protection.

I have used Microsoft's Family Safety Program, along with Norton's Family Security Program, however these are not fool proof either and do not filter sites like YouTube from content you may not want your child viewing. Unfortunately YouTube doesn't have a fool proof way of filtering inappropriate content for children under 18 either.  Therefore, it is important that you are nearby so that you can glance at what your child is doing online by keeping the computer in a central location. This is one of the best ways to keep your child from viewing inappropriate content.

I tend to agree with the first tip as well, children under 18 don't need a smartphone...if they must have a cell phone to call home limit their phone to local calling only and no internet or chat/texting features. If they must have a smartphone with internet access, one recommended Android App is Kids Place, which offers parental controls and a child lock to protect your personal data and restricts kids to only child approved apps and a child approved home screen. It also allows parents to block phone calls and texts, downloading applications, and has a timer lock to set time limits on your child's use.

Here are some additional tips to limit your child's exposure to violent content online, but also limit their exposure to inappropriate and sexual material.

There are steps parents can take to limit their children’s exposure to violent content. Here’s how:
  • Don’t give your child a smartphoneThat’s the first piece of advice Melissa Henson, director of public education at the Parents Television Council, has to offer. “Kids under 18 really don’t have the need for a smartphone,” Henson say. She points out that many children really only need a simple mobile phone to contact their parents.
  • Keep media devices in a central location in the home. If children access media in a communal area of the house, parents will have an easier time monitoring what they’re viewing. Kids may also be less likely to look up controversial content when they know Mom or Dad could walk by at any moment.
  • Take advantage of tools that restrict access. Nearly every device offers parents a number of ways to limit how a child interacts with media. Gaming consoles like Nintendo Wii, for example, allow parents to fix the settings so only games with certain ratings may be played. There is also an option to restrict the way a user can connect online through the portal. The Entertainment Software Association, which developed the ratings for games, acts as a clearinghouse for information on how to maneuver the controls for different systems.
Other industries are also embracing these tools: As part of a new campaign to inform parents about media management tools, the film and TV industry revamped a website dedicated to providing information about parental control technology and ratings systems. The website gives step-by-step instructions on how to restrict access to cable and satellite programming based on TV ratings, plus it explains what the ratings mean. 
  • Stay informed. Parents need to stay abreast of the rapidly changing digital landscape and the new ways in which children can access content. For instance, in the online world of gaming, modifications available to some games in the form of downloads may not be consistent with the rating the game has been given. This is the sort of curve ball parents to need to look out for when monitoring their children’s media consumption habits.
Parents are likely to be the first and last line of defense in monitoring their children’s access to violent content. While the entertainment industry is beefing up efforts to inform consumers and empower parents, it’s still a business -- and at the end of the day, sometimes violence sells. It’s also a difficult legal terrain to navigate. Back in 2011, the Supreme Court struck down a California law banning the sale of violent games to minors on the grounds that it violated free speech.
Read more: Cybercrime News

In addition to the above, limit your child's time online and set up day and time limits they can go online. I have found Microsoft Family Safety Software program to be useful for setting up time limits and it is free to use. For more features you can pay a monthly service fee, but the basic features are sufficient as well. Remember, no software or security program is fool-proof, be aware and involved. Don't let them use the net after bedtime hours unsupervised, just as you wouldn't let them roam the streets after dark.

mysignature-1.png©2008-2012 Patricia Garza

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