Keeping kids online safe

Yesterday I met with a few Symantec executives. They’ll have some cool stuff out over the next few weeks that we can talk about. But yesterday I spent a bunch of time with Jody Gibney who is responsible for the Norton Internet Security product line talking about how to prepare and educate kids about how to safely behave online. It’s nice to see companies are finally moving away from just being a spy on your kids. Parents who assume they can keep their kids from seeing “bad” stuff online are totally uninformed. Now that kids are bringing iPhones to school that era is over. Get over it. Your kids WILL probably see porn or other sites you’d rather they not visit.

The new way to keep kids safe isn’t to try to block them from going to nasty sites: it’s all about educating them about what is good behavior and is bad. Anyway, Jody told me that educators are now seeing the real threats are the kids own friends. They are brutal, she told me, and are doing all sorts of nasty stuff online that could harm reputations for years. Remember, Google sees all but it is selective about what it sees. Ten kids can group together, create a fake online page with your sons name on it, and do a lot of harm. It’s a world I never even considered. I always thought that the threats would be porn or some weird old dude trying to exploit my son.

It gets worse, though, because tonight MSN reported that 51% of kids surf online unsupervised and that 29% had been bullied.

So, how do you protect your kids about that? You talk with them, Jody told me. She and Symantec are developing tools after talking with both kids and parents to try to help them do just that — talk about what’s good behavior online.

So, let’s start. What kind of threats to today’s kids are you seeing? How are you handling it at home?