Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If your kids are school-aged they will have likely already experienced the Internet at school. If you need to catch up, here are some tips to help you Get Started...

(These tips have been reproduced here on the KidSafety website...)

This is a basic starter list if you have a primary-school aged child (like I do). I will add more sections to cover older children in time.


 * Make sure any Internet-enabled computers are set up in a space where you can see them at all times.
 * Sit with your kids as often as you can when they use the Internet, so you can not only keep an eye on where they go but also find out what they like.
 * Limit their online time to something age-appropriate - for instance, about 1/2 an hour a day for 6-8 year olds.
 * Learn how to use the History function in your web browser so you can keep tabs on sites visited.
 * Consider setting up separate login on your home computer, which will enable you to keep your own files safe from prying eyes! Make sure you know all the passwords, and change them regularly.
 * At some point your child will ask for email, IM or Facebook. Think about if they really need it at this age and if the time is right, sit with your child and set up their account with them so that you have access to the password. Being part of the sign-up process establishes you as a part of their social network, rather than setting you up as something for them to circumvent! For email, consider using something like Gmail, which has low levels of spam. Make a habit of checking their friend lists to ensure that you know who they're communicating with. Go through all of the privacy settings and make sure the account is not open to the general public.

Educate yourself

 * If you have little or no computer experience (or confidence), most local libraries or councils offer affordable basic computer and Internet courses.
 * Consider joining a social networking site such as Facebook. With 400 million users around the world, chances are good that your child will want to join one day. The more you know about it, the better-equipped you are to help keep them safe.
 * Explore the Internet together and get your child to show you what they know.

Educate your kids

 * Talk to them about the importance of keeping identifying information to themselves - things like name, address, phone numbers, birthdate and school. There is no need to go into explicit detail - just explain that you're concerned about strangers showing up at the front door. Make sure they understand that they should not put any of these things online unless they check with you first.
 * Teach them to think before they type or click. Help them to understand that once information is put online, it is there forever.
 * Explain that you shouldn't do anything online that you wouldn't do in real life.
 * Make sure that they can't share photos with the general public.


 * You may like to consider Filtering or Parental Control technologies, which will enable you to block everything unless you specifically allow it. Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) provides a list of this type of software.
 * Install anti-virus, spyware and adblocking software on your computer, to stop any accidental nasties being installed on your computer.
 * Make sure you have a working firewall (if you use Windows, most versions include Windows Firewall which is on by default).
 * Take advantage of spam-blocking tools offered by your Internet provider or e-mail software.
 * Use a pop-up blocker or toolbar (like Google’s).
 * For the more technically-minded, consider setting up a Google Alert on your child's name. Anytime their name appears anywhere that Google can find, you will get an email notification.
 * Bookmark their favorite Web sites to reduce the chances of misspelled addresses.
 * Bookmark kid-sized search engines such as:
   o Yahoo! Kids
   o Ask Kids
   o Kids.Net.Au
 * Visit the Australian Government's CyberSmart website, which offers activities, resources and practical advice to help kids, teens and parents safely enjoy the internet.

Visit us at the KidSafety website for more information and resources.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Facebook page

Wow! On 14th April I set up a Facebook "KidSafety" page as part of my school "Web Presence Creation" assignment, and sent the link to my best friend so she could join. One month later there are 25 people on there and I don't know 3/4 of them! Imagine what I could do with a bit of advertising! Stay tuned - the website is starting to take shape...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why the proposed Internet filter will not help protect your children

Today there is an article in the Age entitled Government goes to war with Google over net censorship, which I felt obliged to respond to (search for "Nicky"). This article was based on a radio debate on ABC National last night which I also tuned into.

For those that aren't up to speed, Senator Conroy and the Labor Party are planning to introduce Internet censorship via a mandatory ISP filter. In laymen's terms, this is supposed to block undesirable websites, to protect children. I'm a parent so I know that most parents' first response to this would be "sounds great!". Right?!

Wrong. Problem is, it won't do what he's claiming it will do, and anybody with any technical know-how at all is telling them so. However, the Government is forging ahead with plans to spend over $40 million dollars of taxpayer dollars to implement something that is technically infeasible!

Here are some facts about the filter:

- Senator Conroy claimed last night that the filter will only block 355 websites. However, the blacklist that the filter is based on has already been leaked on the Internet, and it currently contains well over 10,000 sites.

- The filter is based on Refused Classification (RC) material. RC material is NOT illegal - it is legal to possess and view (although not to buy or sell).

- Any of those blocked websites could change their name or hosting provider at any time, and they would no longer be blocked.

- The filter will not do anything to stop peer-to-peer traffic, or email, or FTP, or Instant Messaging, or IRC chat rooms, or in fact any other part of the Internet except for a miniscule portion of the World Wide Web.

- It is simple in the extreme to get around this filter, via the use of "anonymous proxy servers" - 3 words which my 6yo daughter would already be capable of typing into Google. (I've seen 10yo's use computers who know waaay more than their parents - think they won't see this as a challenge worth figuring out?!)

Here are some facts about Australia, our Government and censorship:

- This filter will allow the Government to censor the content that Australians see. (Just the words "Government" and "censor" in the same sentence sends chills down my spine).

- The blacklist is secret, so anything could be added by any future government on a whim and we would never be told.

- Several "false positives" have already occurred that resulted in some websites being added to the blacklist, that shouldn't have been there. If it's YOUR small business website on the blacklist one day, you won't know and you probably won't be able to get it off there easily (although you could just change your business name!).

- Australia has recently been placed on a global "Internet Villains" watchlist which includes South Korea and Russia, and which is only one level below the "Enemies of the Internet" list containing China, Iran, North Korea, Burma, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. Yesterday, it was reported that the US Government questioned the Rudd government's plan to introduce an internet filter, saying it runs contrary to the US's foreign policy of encouraging an open internet to spread economic growth and global security. The world is watching us, and not in a positive way.

- Australia is already a long way away from the rest of the world and the people are very spread out, so our Internet access is generally slower and more expensive than lots of other places in the world, purely due to infrastructure. Forcing ISPs to filter every single website, which is what they'll have to do to identify these 355/10,000 sites, is undoubtedly going to slow things down even more.

Lastly, here are some of my views as a parent:

- This filter will create a false sense of security for many parents, because the Government is doing it and they trust the Government to do the right thing. But to put this into context - this is like sending your 8yo out into the city streets alone at night because the Government has hired one policeman.

- I don't let my children watch any TV show they like. I don't let them wander into newsagents or bookshops and read whatever they like. And I don't let them go to the grocery store and buy whatever food they like. Similarly, it would be irresponsible of me to allow them to use an Internet-connected computer to do whatever they liked, unsupervised. But I don't need the Government's help with that, any more than I need it to stop them watching TV.

- PC-based filter programs and parental controls have been available for years. The last government released a free PC-based program (which I can't find online any more but will post if I do find it), and Net Nanny has been available for almost 10 years. The new Windows 7, Ipods & Itouches all come with the ability to turn parental controls on, and it's possible to enable controls on Google searches too. Just type "parental controls" into any search engine and you'll find thousands and thousands of references. These are all far cheaper than the proposed filter, and they don't infringe on anybody's civil rights. However - none of these things will be 100% successful if you have a determined and unsupervised child.

To finish, here is one of my favourite quotes with regard to censorship:

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. ~Henry Steele Commager

Until next time,
Nicky xo

For more information please visit:
Electronic Frontiers Australia
EFA's OpenInternet campaign
The Punch's Top Ten Internet Filter Lies