First, use some common sense to monitor your children on the Internet the easy way. For instance, simply place the computer in a public area perhaps the kitchen where you can monitor them. Some children will complain loudly but these are your rules. They live under your house, right? You’re the boss. Enforce the rules and be firm yet let your children understand that you love them too. To help you with this process create an Internet contract that establishes your house rules. This will clearly outline what are your responsibilities and what are their responsibilities for their Internet usage. You can also state that they should contact you if they encounter any inappropriate material or people which makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Secondly, a good program will help you monitor your children on the Internet. There are several and some are free yet I’m always a believer in paying for good software. If you can afford Internet access for your children then you can afford good monitoring software. The cost is generally around $30 or $40 per year which works out to 10 cents or less a day. Really, there is no excuse to not purchase one. Whichever you choose, the following is a list of features you should seek for in a good children’s Internet monitoring program:
- Blocking or filtering – this prevents your children from viewing inappropriate webpages or ones that you haven’t approved of.
- ISP children Internet monitoring programs – some ISPs such as AOL will provide software that will help you with monitoring your children’s Internet activity. Ask your ISP if they do provide one. The ones provided by the ISP usually are not as feature-rich as the paid ones out there.
- Time-of-day monitoring – this Internet monitoring feature will restrict access to the Internet to only certain times of the day. For instance, if you’re at work and you’re children are at home then you can disable Internet access till you get home.
- Keylogging – this will allow you to monitor your children’s keystrokes and Internet browsing which can be saved for later viewing. So if your children need access when you’re not at home then you can always view what they typed and what sites they have visited.
- Pop-up blockers – there are many pop-up blockers out there. These are specially designed to stop many porn-related pop-ups.
- Stop the spam – we have all received spam and I’m certain still do. This can significantly reduce the amount of spam and especially the ones that are porn, gambling and drug-related material. A great time-saver.
- Filter vital information – you can keep online predators at bay by blocking important information, like names, addresses and phone numbers being revealed and removing objectionable words in chat and instant messaging programs. A must-have feature because you never know what information your children are giving out. You want to stop this information before it’s given out!
- Built-in anti-spyware – this will keep other programs that have been surreptitiously loaded on your computer.
- Filter out search engine results – some good Internet, children-monitoring software will filter out bad words and pornographic sites from the search engine results such as Google, Yahoo and MSN.
Monitoring your children on the Internet can be done automatically with good software but do not rely on this as the sole means. This is not a panacea. You really need to sit down and talk with your children. Even browse with them for awhile to understand what sites they like to visit and what they search for online. Tell them not to give out personal information including address, phone number, the school they attend or the teams they play on. Get to know their online friends. If they insist on meeting someone they met online make certain that you meet this new friend and the meeting will occur in a public place. When they see inappropriate material online or when someone makes them feel uneasy such as a bully or a potential predator get them to speak with you. Monitoring your children on the Internet doesn’t have to be a full-time job. You just need to use prudence and enforce some basic rules with your children.