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February 12, 2009

Online Safety For Your Family.... What to Do?

I just posted this week about safe online social networking education, but the bottom line is many parents don't know how to implement the right amount of online safety. I implemented internet filters (only allowing access to specific websites) controls on my old laptop so my son could use it - but now I am looking at getting a family computer. I twittered my question -if I should buy and desktop or laptop and received some interesting responses on Twitter and Facebook. Desktops can be considered safer because they can be "set" in a public location like a family room and may be harder to trash because it is easier to replace a keyboard then to replace a whole laptop. I started a hash tag "#computertrashed" so see how many laptops or desktops were trashed in families. But the downside is that are not mobile and kids could still sneak out after bedtime to use. Laptops are mobile and can be taken to wherever the parents are - so computer time is not limited to one room (as is with desktops). But I did receive comments that kids can take laptops in their rooms and sneak "under the covers" to use secretly. With built-in webcams secret use could be dangerous.

So, theoretically parents could implement security on the computer that limits the time, websites and even use of the webcam. Or that monitors all use and reports back to parents. There is software available to do all of this.

The real question is - what type of online security controls should parents implement and how best to do that? What applications/automatic controls should be used? What are good suggestions for family rules?

I would like to answer that - but I do need to start researching this on my own first. As part of my research, it would be great to hear what type of security other parents are implementing on their home PC's or laptops? I read at post a Scobleizer ("Keeping Kids Safe Online") that started the same discussion and had some interesting comments.

As always, I suggest that parents educate themselves first, then their children so they can be make good choices no matter what computer they are using. I tell parents that setting up home online security is the first step - but kids have access to computers at school and at their friends homes so education is key!

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InternetSafety.com provides an array of safety features for kids online - their program "Safe Eyes" sends parents text messages to alert them when their child has attempted to access something inappropriate. This leads to more open and honest discussions between parents and children as opposed to just blindly blocking websites with no explanation.

They recently release an application for the iPhone, the only one of its kind, that will protect kids on the go!

Kurtgw replied via twitter that K9 web protection is worth a look for those with young kids. Effective and free. http://www1.k9webprotection.com/

Robert Scoble recently wrote about how intrigued he is with the new Norton Online Family product about to be released. It's a step beyond traditional parental controls as it works to build relationships with kids and parents while keeping everyone safer. I hope people will check it out!

As to your question about recommended types of online security controls? Start with the basics - internet security suites. You still have to educate your children about their importance because many of the malware types infecting computers hide in fake Windows alerts or intriguing web ads offering free screensavers or iPods. We can't afford to have our children ignore warnings or alerts from their security software when they are "mousing around". Kids are the most vulnerable to click the wrong thing or accept a dangerous download.

Talking is also a best practice for us tech mamams. That's why at Norton we promote having a simple conversation on top of using internet security and parental controls. We put together 5 basic questions, called "The Talk," to start a conversation with your child about their internet "life".

We developed it with input from child development experts and internet security gurus like IkeepSafe.org. You can find "The Talk" and downloadable guides written in English (and 6 other languages) at www.norton.com/familyresource.

Have questions about internet security and your family? send them to me at marian@norton.com.

I also received an email about a Cisco product:

Cisco's Consumer Business Group will introduce an anti-virus, anti-phishing, safe web-surfing application in its Linksys by Cisco routers. Most importantly, it will feature Parental Controls, allowing parents to restrict sites that each individual child can visit or even place time limits on their web surfing. The product will be imbedded in Linksys by Cisco routers, catching viruses and spyware before it reaches the PC, or any other device on your network, and outsmarting even the most tech-savvy kid who knows how to deactivate controls within the PC.

And I received another email about CyberPatrol:
http://www.cyberpatrol.com/

You know, you may get "free" AV and utilities from your broadband ISP. Out local provider gives customers a free license to McAfee's Security Suite. PC Magazine just updated their list of The Best Security Suites for 2009 at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2333448,00.asp.

Norton Internet Security 2009 comes out as their favourite and their new Editors' Choice.

More resources and suggestions here: http://blogs.msdn.com/mthree/archive/2009/01/30/peter-cullen-013009.aspx

You should look into Astaro [http://www.astaro.com/]. It's free, for home use, and easy to manage. You can set it up on a spare PC and manage it via web browser.

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