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What steps do you take to safeguard your kids online?

Many parents are less IT aware than their kids, so enforcing rules is very difficult
Many parents are less IT aware than their kids, so enforcing rules is very difficult

The last time I broached the subject of monitoring your child's internet activity, the article sparked controversy with a few readers, who berated me for questioning their parenting abilities. With that in mind, I thought I would try again.

I have three (now adult) kids myself and I hate being told how to bring them up as much as the next parent does. Having IT knowledge, I did monitor their activities and put rules in place in the same way that I did with non-internet activities. If they said they were going to someone’s house I would make sure I knew how to contact them and that the other parents were aware etc, as no doubt you all would.

The issue is that many parents are less IT aware than their kids, so enforcing rules is very difficult. This, coupled with some parents still being unaware of the potential dangers for minors out there on the worldwide web, makes the issue more of a concern.

According to Ofcom, 90% of 8- to 11-year-olds spend 13 hours a week online. This increases to 98% for 12- to 15-year-olds, who spend 20 hours a week. Personally, I believe these averages are very low, as they do not include smartphone time.

What’s the problem?

Pornography for one – 83% of boys and 57% of girls below the age of 18 admit having seen group sex online. And 79% of unwanted internet exposure to porn is in the home.

Cyberbullying – 10% say they have been threatened and or blackmailed by their peers.

Online predators – 47% of offenders are more than 20 years older than their victims and 83% of victims who met their offender willingly went somewhere with them.

Gaming – many games are completely inappropriate for under-18s, with not only the risk of subjecting them to extreme violence but also sexualised content, predators and the newer threat of gambling or overspending, encouraged by many games.

Obviously, you would be mortified if your 12-year-old announced they were off to London for the night to see a dubious show in the back streets of Soho with a guy older than their dad who they met in the park. You would know how to deal with real-life issues like this. But online is much more difficult, especially if you have poor IT skills – and then there’s the question of invading privacy.

Help is at hand though in the form of child protection software. This breaks down into two main categories and each of these has both free and paid-for versions – none is foolproof so you’ll still need to do some parenting I’m afraid.

Blocking or web filtering – software that blocks access to certain websites by default and enables you to add sites of your choice.

Logging/spying – hidden to the user or not, these log what is being typed, what apps are used and when, and some have screenshots.

There is a large choice, but some well-reviewed free software to consider would be: Qustodio, OpenDNS FamilyShield, Kidlogger and Spyrix Free Keylogger. Zoodles is different, being a web browser (like Chrome, Firefox) designed specifically for kids. You will need some IT skills to install, configure and monitor – you could always ask your kids to help (or Genmar for a small fee).

We’ve struck gold!

I am normally careful, when writing these articles, making the effort to give informed advice on IT and not overly promote Genmar. However, we have achieved something good and I am so proud of my team that I want to announce it here. After a concerted effort, Genmar has officially been awarded Microsoft Gold Partner Status. I realise this means nothing to the uninitiated, but it means a lot to us geeks.

* Garry Moore is MD of Genmar IT, Unit 12, The Links Business Centre, Raynham Road industrial estate, Bishop’s Stortford CM23 5NZ. You can contact them on 0330 445 1234, at email@genmar.co.uk or visit genmar.co.uk

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