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As adults we often take the Internet for granted. We know it exists and we know it contains websites related to every subject that exists, no matter how niche that subject matter may be, but we’re still quite blase about it all. Which can make us forget or ignore that inquiring little minds may find it hard to resist exploring.

In addition to the informative, educational, or entertaining resources on the Web there are dark corners where many fear to tread. This means parents have to at least bear in mind the dangers that lurk online. But what to do about this issue? This was the subject of last week’s ‘We Ask You‘ column. What follows is a compilation of the thoughts of the MakeUseOf readership.

What Steps Do You Take To Protect Your Children Online?

We asked you, What Steps Do You Take To Protect Your Children Online? What Steps Do You Take To Protect Your Children Online? [We Ask You] What Steps Do You Take To Protect Your Children Online? [We Ask You] While the Internet may be just about the greatest invention of all time (yes, that is open to debate), it also has a darker side. While adults can dip their toe into the murkier waters... Read More The responses were very varied, which suggests that this issue is a personal one with no right or wrong answers. Each parent/set of parents must decide themselves what steps they want to take, if any, to protect their children from the inherent dangers of the Internet.

Some people use nothing more than common sense and the bare minimum of parental controls. Restricting kids to using a shared computer placed in a family room is a popular safety measure. Others use more stringent precautions such as Windows Live Family Safety or K9 Web Protection, both of which can be used to restrict certain domains or activity. And both of which are free.

Comment Of The Week

Comment of the week goes to Espen, who gets nothing but my admiration and respect (which is surely more than anyone needs) for:

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I (and my siblings) started using the Internet early, and my parents never installed any parental control. I turned out fine, and I don’t think monitoring your children is a solution. It is better to sit down with them and show them how to browse safely. Common sense is the best weapon, and it shows you that you trust them, which is extremely important.

This comment is interesting because it originates from the other side of the debate. Espen has grown up with the Internet and was given the freedom to explore it at will. In a further comment Espen admitted coming across things online occasionally that weren’t exactly suitable for a child to see. But doing so hasn’t harmed anyone. It’s up to the individual parent whether to take that risk or not.

We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. ‘We Ask You’ is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf X Seldom-known Awesome Tools To Optimize Windows X Seldom-known Awesome Tools To Optimize Windows Read More readers. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.

Image Credit: Andrew Stawarz

  1. Ben
    June 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    OpenDNS is the way to go

  2. Duncan Hamilton
    June 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Content: Initially for the eldest (nearly 14) I installed K9 - probably four years ago. When that machine died I ran FilterFox on her Linux laptop. Periodically checked the logs on both, never ever came up with anything.

    Now, with the sheer number of internet capable devices in the house and the fact she has a BlackBerry, I've basically given up trying to monitor at machine level. For short while I set up the media server to run as a proxy - same thing; nothing other than Facebook, Youtube, and a few other bits.

    Talking to other parents in her social circle, I've come to the conclusion that most kids are self-policing through either peer-pressure, innocence, ignorance, or just basically just not being interested. They've no more desire to view extreme adult content than anyone else.

    Either way, it's got to be pretty extreme stuff to inflict greater psychological damage than the sex education film of the family playing frisbee in the sand dunes they made us all watch at school in the 80s...

    • Dave Parrack
      June 22, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Man, that film scarred me for life lol.

      Everything being connected to the Internet has clearly made it harder for parents to police. I really don't envy you the job right now.

  3. R
    June 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    I also give my children a fair amount of freedom. I also use OpenDNS for our home. This lets me filter all sorts of bad sites. It also blocks ads from these sites that may turn on other more innocuos sites. I can also monitor where they have been if I have any cause for worry.....

  4. Justin Winokur
    June 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    I agree with that comment you highlight. I never had any restrictions. I used the internet pretty safely. I did use it to look at inappropriate content, but that is also part of childhood. Of course, there are extremes of anything, but looking at some content as a teenager is not that big of a deal.

    While I am strongly against censorship enforced by a third party (including the government), I have no issue with parental censorship. That's how it should work. I do not think I would enforce censorship on my children just as it wasn't enforced on me, but that doesn't mean that I don't think it is the parents' right.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      It's interesting that you'll do for your children what your parents did for you. I wonder if those who were censored will do the same when they have kids. Thanks for commenting.

    • Justin Winokur
      June 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      I do not know if that is always true. While not directly the internet, my long-term girlfriend was brought up with rather over-protective parents and all that comes with it while my parents were more of the "make your own mistakes, but don't be dumb" types. We kinda both agreed that if/when we have kids, we want the laid back (but still very caring and supporting) approach. I think it stems from me being happy with how I was raised and her having issues with how she was raised.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      Ah, good point. It can clearly work both ways. I do think there's a sweet spot in terms of giving kids freedom while ensuring their safety. It's a tough job to hit it though.

  5. IcedRainbow
    June 21, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I use OpenDns, It does the Job without hassles.

  6. Johann
    June 21, 2012 at 5:52 am

    Didn't see the original, but using OpenDNS is a good start

  7. Salman Abdullah
    June 21, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Download a website safe for kids and let them browse it locally. No internet for kids. It's very dangerous.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 21, 2012 at 10:44 am

      Do you believe it really is dangerous or has the media hyped a lot of that up?

    • Laga Mahesa
      June 22, 2012 at 9:17 am

      It's not just the media. Community and national leaders are even bigger hype machines outside the West.

  8. Nate Williams
    June 21, 2012 at 3:55 am

    Well, in my case, I am very open with my kids. And I actively guide them so that they will know which ones are right for them and which sites are not.

  9. Nate Williams
    June 21, 2012 at 3:53 am

    well, in my case, i am very open with my kids and i actively guide them when using the net, so that they will know themselves which ones are right for them and which sites are not.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

      The hands-on approach then?

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