I often get questioned from many of my friends with kids about what can be done to keep them safe on the Internet. The online threat to kids comes in many forms, so its important that parents take steps to address it. Cyber bullying, cyber stalking, mature content and even predators are all among the many threats. Thankfully there are a few things you can do as a parent and technologically to keep them safe. My practical advice is simple layered security solution with some honest open communication.
- Set users up as regular/limited/standard users and NOT administrators (Windows) or root (OSX/Linux). Your children don’t need to be able to install things or otherwise change the system.
- Get a good up-to-date Anti-Malware protection solution. The day of the Anti-virus solution is long gone and you need protection that will defend you against the myriad of threats (Spyware, Worms, Viruses, etc.) you face in todays Internet. Turn on automatic updating so that patching comes automatically and in a systematic fashion. Statistically this will reduce many of the malware exploits you might encounter.
- Turn on parental controls. Whether you are on Windows XP/Vista or OSX you have the ability to turn on parental controls to block them from doing certain things or going to certain sites. If the parental controls embedded in the operating system of your choice are not enough then check out my presentation below for some great 3rd party options.
- Block some websites/content on your SOHO (Small Home Office Router/Firewall). Modern SOHO networking devices often have parental controls in them as well to block users on your network from accessing content that you don’t approve of. For example, take a look at the Linksys WRT54G.
- Back regularly. All modern OS’s allow you to do this quite simply so don’t feel intimidated. Backup to external hard drive, USB or even online backup. Trust me, you will be happy you did if your child does end up doing something that compromises your machine.
- Educate your children to the basics on understanding security, phishing, privacy, etc. If they are armed with knowledge they will be less likely to fall prey to the social engineering/technical tactics in the future.
- Maintain your home computer in the family room or other location where you can physically monitor them.
- Ask to review their online profiles on social networking sites.
- Remind them to think before posting or otherwise communicating anything that their parents, principal or nearly anyone of the billions of Internet users can see it.
- Make your kids aware of what to do if they have a problem with cyber bullying, cyber stalking, predators or otherwise.
- Talk to your kids about the online risks and your household allowed Internet uses. Maintain an open dialog so that they understand their responsibilities and your expectations.
Earlier this year I did a whole presentation on this very subject. Please so feel free to check it out here.