Internet Safety
October 8, 2004 4:53 PM   Subscribe

A co-worker is buying a computer for the first time for her family and is concerned for the safety of her children online. [MI]

She would greatly appreciate your comments on the following: What are the websites you allow your children to access and what was the criteria you used to evaluate the safety and security of those websites? Do you allow them to interact in chat rooms, send emails or meet online friends? Has your child ever meet someone you deemed inappropriate online? Do you supervise your children continually while they are online?
posted by lola to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
9 year old daughter here.

The computer is in our study. The hard rule is that the door is to remain wide open while the computer is used. In the event that I donate a computer to her bedroom, and it's on the network, the same rule will apply.

She's not interested in chat rooms so that hasn't come up. If she did, there would be no unchaperoned meetings.

Email is fine - she has an address that's too hard for spammers to guess, and only receives/sends mail to family and friends. I reserve the right to read the mail.

Other than that, I don't supervise. I don't believe she has the prurient interest to pursue anything that might warp her tiny mind, and insofar as she does, I think she's likely to call me to come and have a look.

As far as I can tell all she is really interested in is finding pictures for school projects and playing flash games.

*ahem* and because we're an all Linux household and only I have root, there's little damage she can do by mucking around with the computer either.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:14 PM on October 8, 2004

About the same here, with a 9-year-old boy. He's adept at finding flash games on WB and Cartoon Network, but isn't interested in things involving too much reading.

He's only allowed 20 minutes per day of computer and/or GameBoy, and the GameBoy gets much more use.
posted by spacewrench at 8:38 PM on October 8, 2004

By the way, I recommend Homestarrunner and hi monkey for the younger ones.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:47 PM on October 8, 2004

Nickelodeon has great games for kids, i've found.

They do make disney (and barbie and mattel) computers now, with supposedly very strong parental controls.
posted by amberglow at 9:07 PM on October 8, 2004

Please define "safety".

Do you mean physical safety, like they'll meet someone who will stalk or hurt them? (Or, I suppose, carpal tunnel syndrome is a subcategory of this.)

Do you mean identity/privacy safety, where they might give out too much information about themselves or their family?

Do you mean mental safety, where they might learn about things they're not supposed to, including but not limited to drugs, porn, sex, goatse, bombs, guns, news, and warren ellis?
posted by Caviar at 9:51 PM on October 8, 2004

My 11 year old can play on the Internet somewhat unsupervised- the door remains open, and we set up a browser for him with a bookmarks list. If he wants to deviate off that list, he has to ask, we've had the "no giving out personal information about yourself" talk many, many times, and he's not allowed to download anything. Mostly, he just likes to play the games on Yahooligans- I occasionally monitor his games to make sure that he's using good etiquette (not closing the game when he's losing, for example) and to make sure the conversations he's having are appropriate, but generally, I just leave him alone and keep an eye on him from a distance.

I really recommend Yahooligans, because it's a pretty full-featured portal site. It has games, news, trivia, jokes, movie reviews... basically everything an adult portal site would have, only kid-appropriate.

They have a parents' guide on the site, but what I liked was that no matter what I put in the search engine, it never pulled up any age-inappropriate links. (It also doesn't pull up information about breast exams, but it does return a good, informative collection of listings for AIDS, so six of one, half-dozen of the other.)

Another nice feature of the site is that you don't have to register to play any of the games, and you don't have the option of using your own name- you select from a list of maybe 20 gender-neutral aliases to play.

The advertising is also pared down pretty well, and it tends to be advertising for kids-demographic movies rather than toys or consumables, which I like.

He's also allowed to visit and The Cartoon Network- they both have games and activities related to their programming, and the Cartoon Network site has a plain page for information about Adult Swim that doesn't mingle with the children's programming and wouldn't be interesting even if they did load it up.

Sometimes I surf with him, and Viking Kitties totally cracks him up. The site itself is NSFK, but if you bookmark the individual videos beforehand, you can go straight to them and enjoy the show.
posted by headspace at 9:54 PM on October 8, 2004

Sorry, that should have been:

"drugs, porn, sex, goatse, bombs, guns, news, and warren ellis"
posted by Caviar at 10:08 PM on October 8, 2004

May I just suggest one thing to everyone here...

...if you specifically outright ban your child from doing something, you can bet your life savings that's what they're doing when they go to their friend's house.

My parents refused to buy me an NES as a kid for years, suggesting I'd do nothing but play video games. So, I spent most of my time out of the house at various friends' houses playing NES all day or hoping to score the latest cracked C64 game from a friend (lucky me, I had a computer).

When I finally got my parents to cave in on the matter, about 6 or 7 years after the console was released, I was actually so good at the games, it was pretty worthless and the unit didn't hang around for more than a couple of years.

I would expect the same thing to happen when it comes to internet usage.

Of course, being prepared to ban something should a situation arise is an entirely different case. And, clearly, some bans are in place to protect a child from harm. And, since most parents agree on such things, you won't need to worry about your child engaging in said banned behaviour outside your home (for example: Chatting with absolute random strangers).

All that being said, I'm a non-parent with more than his fair share to say.
posted by shepd at 3:18 AM on October 9, 2004

Once she's decided which sites are acceptable, she might want to look into running a DNS proxy like DNS Kong, which can block connections to the internet (including email, chat, etc, not just browsers), save for ones she's explicitly defined, effectively creating a walled garden for her kids to roam in.
posted by nikzhowz at 4:04 AM on October 9, 2004

Definitely a gmail account. I've tricked out all my young nieces & nephews with them, to the relief of their parents. (I have a spare, if you want it, email in profile).
posted by punilux at 5:46 AM on October 9, 2004

Thank you all for your responses. I'll pass your comments and sugggestions on to my co-worker.

punlilux, I've sent you an email.
posted by lola at 3:40 PM on October 9, 2004

Interesting... no kid here, but this topic interests me. No one's brought up internet filtering- does anyone use software like NetNanny? Are there any open-source filtering schemes? Actually, a community-based collaborative filtering web filter (dare I say a meta-web filter?) might be kind of interesting... just sayin'...
posted by mkultra at 8:53 AM on October 10, 2004

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