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October 10, 2009

Is There Any Such Thing As "Safe Web Surfing" for Kids?

J0433153 *republished 10/10 with updates:

A blogger friend emailed me asking about safe web surfing for her son. Many parents want to allow their kids to search for websites on the web, but worry about them wandering onto dangerous websites.

So I decided to revisit an area I think about often: What controls are available for safe web surfing for kids?

1. Brandon from BlackWaterOps tweeted the following suggestion:  OpenDNS.com , set your router, safe guard your childs surfing. no software to bypass, update, and its free. MakeUseOf.com had a post on 5 Free Parental Control Apps that also included OpenDNS.com. Their post had some details on which settings to use.

2. CNET Download: Searching the CNET download website for parental controls will provide a listing of applications available for download. I decided not to leave web surfing to chance and implemented a web filter on my son's first computer (that he received when he was 8). I choose to use the option of "not allowing" any website, so my son and I could hand pick which websites were allowed. This option does take the most time, but it is the most restrictive. The only challenge is that once in a website, a filter will not work. For example, if I allow YouTube, I can't restrict which videos he watches. Lifehacker posted with an application called "Kideo" that helps make YouTube safer. There are also other applications for restricting YouTube access.

3. Online security controls are available at the operating system level. Here is a link to information about Microsoft Windows and Apple Safari browser controls. The Mozilla Firefox website has information on Firefox browser controls. Websites like MACWorld and also publish information about safe web surfing.

4. Laptop Magazine has reviews on Security software and How-to's.

5. Common Sense Media has website reviews to locate the right websites for kids. Disney Family Fun website posted with the pledge that kids should take, and some other relevant websites for information on safe web surfing: America Links Up , Cyberangels , Family Guide Book, GetNetWise, SafeKids, SmartParent and Web Wise Kids.

6. MarianMerritt, Symantec's Internet Safety Advocate, did a guest post on my blog with details about the Norton Online Safety Services.

7.I received an email about another site called "Zoodles" - free online browser with educational games for children,

8. PC World posted with Safe Web Surfing utilities like Ad-Aware and Spybot that help prevent from spyware and malicious code from infecting computers.

Internet Safety.com has a section that shows a family internet game plan.

Many websites talk about asking kids to take pledges. I believe that online and cellphone etiquette/security is the new sex talk - so every parent needs to take the initiative to educate themselves and their kids. Just because you may have a restrictive environment at home does not mean that your child won't be exposed to a less restrictive environment at friends house - so education is key to their safety. After education, then a family pledge associated with rewards or consequences is a logical next step.  But parents need to make sure they are following up by monitoring the website access on all home computers.

In the end, there is no bullet proof safe web surfing for kids. Every parent just needs to do their best to provide internet safety education and controls for their family. Then hope for the best.


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Hi Beth,

This is Rachel from the Zoodles Team. Thanks for the mention, and definitely let us know if you're interested in doing a full review! We're always happy to answer any questions or concerns at feedback [at] zoodles DOT com.

Thanks again!

This is a great article with useful info about parenting in the digital age.
As a co-founder of Kideos, I agree that parents need to do everything in their power to provide internet safety and controls for their children. Kideos is an online entertainment destination for kids elementary aged and younger that features children's favorite video clips and shows that have been vetted and approved by a video advisory council. The site is simple enough that children can navigate it on their own, and parents can rest assured that their children will not see any inappropriate content as all the videos have been pre-screened. Check us out at kideos.com.

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