Monday, November 2, 2009

Part 2: Buying a Computer or Smart Phone for the Kids In Your Life?

I blogged in Part 1 last week about how your kids’ holiday wish list might include a new gadget or two...or three.  These gadgets could include a gaming system, smart phone or computer.

Yes, I agree that these gadgets will help your kids with homework, play games, and keep in touch with friends and family. While these gadgets open up a world of information and experiences, these same gadgets can also open the door just enough to let cyber creeps take a peek in and target your kids.

According to a recent study, 4 million kids are posting content to the Web everyday. 
15 million young people use Instant Messaging.

Are the kids in your life part of those numbers?

When your kids go to a friends house or an after school activity, you usually check out the location, who your kids hang out with, and the activities they will participate in. Apply these same safety principles to your kids online activities to help keep them safe.

I have three easy tips for you to follow whether you are purchasing a new gadget or already have gadgets such as gaming systems, smart phones or computers at home.

1. Smart Surfing: Many mobile phones now offer filtering software to block inappropriate content. Check with your provider to turn on this feature.

2. Great Gaming: Talk to your children about online games. Discuss what game sites you approve of. Remind your children not to game with strangers or to give out personal information while online gaming, even if they know the person.

3. Computer Controls: Set your computer browser to block pages with content that is not appropriate for your kids. You can also install software that helps you monitor what your kids see and do online.

Thankfully there are many new services that can help you protect your kids online.  Below we offer just a few of the many options of products and services available to protect your family.

Smart Surfing:
Most smartphone and cellphone providers offer “Parental Controls” to help you protect your kids while they use the mobile device. 

Go to the website of your provider or call their customer support center for more information.

Great Gaming:

Internet Connection:
Some parents disconnect their game system from the internet and only connect it to download games or update the system.  Since not all gaming systems operate this way, this is not always practical.  Please follow our additional tips to help your kids practice Great Gaming.

Don’t Talk to Strangers:
Remind your children not to play online games with strangers and never to share personal information with any online gamer, even if they think they are gaming with a friend.

Check Activities & Gaming Locations:
To block content, you have “Parental Controls” on the gaming systems.

Xbox Parental Controls: gave Xbox a Safe Gaming Award.  Xbox supports parental controls that allow you to limit access based on ages of your kids and ratings of DVDs and games.

Playstation Parental Controls:  Depends on the model you have but use a rating/number system.  Lower numbers aimed at children and highest numbers for mature audiences.  Rule of thumb, 1-5 typically are best for families with younger children.  Level 5 or T for Teen on the PS3.  M is for Mature.

Wii Parental Controls:  Wii Parental Controls are based on the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) game ratings categories.  They also offer a way to lock down online gaming to people that are approved.

Computer Controls:
You can go very basic with controls and use the browser that is installed on your computer.  If you want a little more protection, there are software packages that you can install on your computer to help you protect your kids.

Basic Controls – Browser Settings

Internet Explorer:  If you use a Microsoft Browser, you can set your security settings to high. 

Visit the following link to learn more about this and other security features:

Safari:  If you use a Mac, on the Safari browser, choose Safari, then preferences, and then security to choose your security settings.  Another popular Mac option is to create an “Approved List” of websites that your children can.  Select an account, click Content, and select “Allow access to only these websites.” A child logging in to the Mac using that account will be able to access the sites you list. They cannot get around this setting without your Administrator password.

For more information on this feature and other security features, visit:

Additional Protections:

Free:  There are several free options, we are highlighting two of them -

McGruff Online Safety:

K9 Web Protection:

Available for Purchase:  There are many software packages and services that you can purchase.  We have highlighted three of them -

NetNanny – Net Nanny was one of the first services available.  It allows a parent to monitor, restrict, and control your kids’ access to the internet.

Content Watch – This offers content monitoring and filtering.  Also provides spam blocking.  

Zone Alarm Security Suite – Allows you to customize what you want to block.  You can also create password protected features.   

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