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?

81 thoughts on “Keeping kids online safe

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  3. InternetSafety.com provides an array of safety features for kids online – their program “Safe Eyes” sends parents text messages to alert them when their child has attempted to access something inappropriate. This leads to more open and honest discussions between parents and children as opposed to just blindly blocking websites with no explanation.

    They recently release an application for the iPhone, the only one of its kind, that will protect kids on the go!

  4. InternetSafety.com provides an array of safety features for kids online – their program “Safe Eyes” sends parents text messages to alert them when their child has attempted to access something inappropriate. This leads to more open and honest discussions between parents and children as opposed to just blindly blocking websites with no explanation.

    They recently release an application for the iPhone, the only one of its kind, that will protect kids on the go!

  5. Some people here seem to put in serious efforts to “protect” their kids from outside threads.

    I wonder how these people organize their social live. Are they aware that 90% of all real life sex crimes against children are committed by people close to the kids: Family members, friends of the family, teachers … ??

    Yes, we also teach our kids why they shouldn’t provide personal information on public web sites, we talk about what might happen to them when they visit disturbing web pages (having ugly dreams for two weeks at least). But at the end this is just part of the normal “get them ready for the world” education.

    Its on the same level as teaching them how to cross the street or what to eat and what not. Nothing more, nothing less. Just something what must be done but no reason to panic.

  6. Some people here seem to put in serious efforts to “protect” their kids from outside threads.

    I wonder how these people organize their social live. Are they aware that 90% of all real life sex crimes against children are committed by people close to the kids: Family members, friends of the family, teachers … ??

    Yes, we also teach our kids why they shouldn’t provide personal information on public web sites, we talk about what might happen to them when they visit disturbing web pages (having ugly dreams for two weeks at least). But at the end this is just part of the normal “get them ready for the world” education.

    Its on the same level as teaching them how to cross the street or what to eat and what not. Nothing more, nothing less. Just something what must be done but no reason to panic.

  7. Picking up on some of the earlier notes some of you will probably be interested to know that there are software solutions available already to protect children using mobile phones. The general concensus that I’ve seen from children’s charities and child experts is that while there are definite risks to children using mobile phones from a your age the downsides are outweighed by the positives – both safety and convenience. Secondly, it’s just unrealistic to think that you’ll be able to resist giving your child a mobile phone sooner rather than later – ‘you can’t duck technology, you have to deal with it!’.

    I’m the CEO of an Irish start-up software company (www.sentrywireless.com) that has developed and launched software that helps ‘teach children about responsible mobile usage’. We won the title of “Most Innovagtive Mobile Start-up in the Asia Pacific” for it’s launch in Singapore. Using a regular mobile phone (none of those kiddy ones that children laugh at) parents are allowed to ‘approve the numbers in the phone book with a PIN number. Once they’ve done this (it takes less than 15 seconds from first touching teh handset to completion) it means that that not only are these the only numbers the child can call or text but also (more importantly?) these are the only people who can contact the child – so only approved people get through and not strangers! (a white list of approved contacts)

    James from earlier today (7.24am) I think got it just right in terms of what a good solution should do:

    SMART technology should be able to: (allow me to repeat)

    1) Have a part to play to help educate children (without taking away the fun)
    2) Provide reassurance to parents (by providing them information when there is a problem)
    3) And not be spying! (which creates parent/child trust issues).

    We think that when the child is young / naive the parent will control the phone tightly. As the child matures and shows that they are more aware they will have freer use of the phone and at some point the parent will give them the PIN number so that they can enter and remove numbers as they choose .. but still be protected from complete strangers. Eventually they will have no controls.

    Kidsafe has a parent alert built in so that if the child tries to remove the SIM card and place it in another phone that miught not protect the parent will automatically send an SMS to the parent warning them. It also captures the main details of the blocked calls and text messages which only the parent can see. This allows the parent detect if there might be an issue e.g. they see a strange number trying repeatedly to contact the child late at night.

    However, to James third point about NOT spying) it doesn’t capture the content of any text message – sent to a blocked or approved number. It could do from a technical perspective but we believe that it’s a could of steps too far and would create real trust issues with the child.

    Without wishing to scare anyone there’s lots of hard data and media reports showing that almost half (39% in Ireland) of kids are either bullied themselves or know a close friend who has been bullied via their mobile phone. Because of the nature of the device children use them outside of the home and away from their parents protective reach. That increases the risk.

    Kidsafe has already been launched with a mobile operator in Ireland and also Singapore. Unfortunately we’re not in a position to sell directly to consumers but as is always the case in these circumstances the only way that you’ll get the protection for your child is by demanding it. Kidsafe isn’t the only solution available to operators (though I do think it’s the best!!) but if you want your kids to be protected you should tell them and let them know – call customer service, write an email and ask what they’re doing and point out other operators (www.m1.com.sg) and http://www.three.ie have proactively addressed the situation. Apologies for going on so long – can’t help but be passionate.

  8. Picking up on some of the earlier notes some of you will probably be interested to know that there are software solutions available already to protect children using mobile phones. The general concensus that I’ve seen from children’s charities and child experts is that while there are definite risks to children using mobile phones from a your age the downsides are outweighed by the positives – both safety and convenience. Secondly, it’s just unrealistic to think that you’ll be able to resist giving your child a mobile phone sooner rather than later – ‘you can’t duck technology, you have to deal with it!’.

    I’m the CEO of an Irish start-up software company (www.sentrywireless.com) that has developed and launched software that helps ‘teach children about responsible mobile usage’. We won the title of “Most Innovagtive Mobile Start-up in the Asia Pacific” for it’s launch in Singapore. Using a regular mobile phone (none of those kiddy ones that children laugh at) parents are allowed to ‘approve the numbers in the phone book with a PIN number. Once they’ve done this (it takes less than 15 seconds from first touching teh handset to completion) it means that that not only are these the only numbers the child can call or text but also (more importantly?) these are the only people who can contact the child – so only approved people get through and not strangers! (a white list of approved contacts)

    James from earlier today (7.24am) I think got it just right in terms of what a good solution should do:

    SMART technology should be able to: (allow me to repeat)

    1) Have a part to play to help educate children (without taking away the fun)
    2) Provide reassurance to parents (by providing them information when there is a problem)
    3) And not be spying! (which creates parent/child trust issues).

    We think that when the child is young / naive the parent will control the phone tightly. As the child matures and shows that they are more aware they will have freer use of the phone and at some point the parent will give them the PIN number so that they can enter and remove numbers as they choose .. but still be protected from complete strangers. Eventually they will have no controls.

    Kidsafe has a parent alert built in so that if the child tries to remove the SIM card and place it in another phone that miught not protect the parent will automatically send an SMS to the parent warning them. It also captures the main details of the blocked calls and text messages which only the parent can see. This allows the parent detect if there might be an issue e.g. they see a strange number trying repeatedly to contact the child late at night.

    However, to James third point about NOT spying) it doesn’t capture the content of any text message – sent to a blocked or approved number. It could do from a technical perspective but we believe that it’s a could of steps too far and would create real trust issues with the child.

    Without wishing to scare anyone there’s lots of hard data and media reports showing that almost half (39% in Ireland) of kids are either bullied themselves or know a close friend who has been bullied via their mobile phone. Because of the nature of the device children use them outside of the home and away from their parents protective reach. That increases the risk.

    Kidsafe has already been launched with a mobile operator in Ireland and also Singapore. Unfortunately we’re not in a position to sell directly to consumers but as is always the case in these circumstances the only way that you’ll get the protection for your child is by demanding it. Kidsafe isn’t the only solution available to operators (though I do think it’s the best!!) but if you want your kids to be protected you should tell them and let them know – call customer service, write an email and ask what they’re doing and point out other operators (www.m1.com.sg) and http://www.three.ie have proactively addressed the situation. Apologies for going on so long – can’t help but be passionate.

  9. Great post. It’s nice to see greater attention being paid to what is an ever increasing challenge for today’s kids. Norton is the lead sponsor for a special edition Education.com has published on bullying on-line and at a school — http://www.education.com/topic/school-bullying-teasing/. There are a number of things parents can do to give their kids the presence of mind to handle tough social situations – both as the bullied and as the bully.

    The new Norton product is a major innovation and gives parents the tools they need to begin an active dialogue with their kids and to help protect them from the uglier side of the Internet. I recommend every parent of a school-aged child check out the product when it becomes generally available.

  10. Great post. It’s nice to see greater attention being paid to what is an ever increasing challenge for today’s kids. Norton is the lead sponsor for a special edition Education.com has published on bullying on-line and at a school — http://www.education.com/topic/school-bullying-teasing/. There are a number of things parents can do to give their kids the presence of mind to handle tough social situations – both as the bullied and as the bully.

    The new Norton product is a major innovation and gives parents the tools they need to begin an active dialogue with their kids and to help protect them from the uglier side of the Internet. I recommend every parent of a school-aged child check out the product when it becomes generally available.

  11. Timing couldn’t be more perfect, my daughters’s elementary school Principal called last night to remind us of the Online Safety meeting for parents and 6th graders that we are having Thursday night.
    I will be forwarding this thread to her.
    As with most of life’s challenges Education and Context are vital.

  12. Timing couldn’t be more perfect, my daughters’s elementary school Principal called last night to remind us of the Online Safety meeting for parents and 6th graders that we are having Thursday night.
    I will be forwarding this thread to her.
    As with most of life’s challenges Education and Context are vital.

  13. I think that this article and accompanying comments are on the mark. However, educating the children is not the only solution – firstly, because software/hardware safeguards must be in place as well, and moreover the adults need the background and knowledge of the situation at hand to control and/or fight it.

    Plus, children aside, I believe that safeguards must be in place for adults as well. Whether it is a monitoring program, filtering software, firewall, or what-have-you, I think that human nature might force even adults to do that which they might know is wrong and should not be done. The only way to safeguard that activity is to have the technology in place to keep them from wrongdoing.

  14. I think that this article and accompanying comments are on the mark. However, educating the children is not the only solution – firstly, because software/hardware safeguards must be in place as well, and moreover the adults need the background and knowledge of the situation at hand to control and/or fight it.

    Plus, children aside, I believe that safeguards must be in place for adults as well. Whether it is a monitoring program, filtering software, firewall, or what-have-you, I think that human nature might force even adults to do that which they might know is wrong and should not be done. The only way to safeguard that activity is to have the technology in place to keep them from wrongdoing.

  15. I think the first step to protect kids is to educate parents. The problem is the big technology gap between the technology that most parents “grew up” with and how kids use technology these days. Some parents believe that keeping their kids away from technology at home will keep them safe.. Those are the kids that are at the highest risk – because all kids will have access to technology at some place at some time. Beyond that – technology is already apart of how tweens/teens communicate.

    So I suggest to all parents to spend time educating themselves then spend time educating their kids. Implement internet security on all computers at home – but also explain why it is important to have security. Try to have computers in public spaces – or if kids have laptops it is important to set timing limitations for internet use.

    Parents also need to understand the technology within a computer. Don’t think that kids won’t figure out how to use the internal video camera to video chat – assume they will and help them understand what is and is NOT appropriate when it comes to video chat (or disable the camera). I could go on, but so happy you got this discussion going.

    I also read “Ask Marian” which is a blogger that works for Symantec and talks about online security and safety for kids and families.
    http://community.norton.com/t5/blogs/blogpage/blog-id/askmarian

  16. I think the first step to protect kids is to educate parents. The problem is the big technology gap between the technology that most parents “grew up” with and how kids use technology these days. Some parents believe that keeping their kids away from technology at home will keep them safe.. Those are the kids that are at the highest risk – because all kids will have access to technology at some place at some time. Beyond that – technology is already apart of how tweens/teens communicate.

    So I suggest to all parents to spend time educating themselves then spend time educating their kids. Implement internet security on all computers at home – but also explain why it is important to have security. Try to have computers in public spaces – or if kids have laptops it is important to set timing limitations for internet use.

    Parents also need to understand the technology within a computer. Don’t think that kids won’t figure out how to use the internal video camera to video chat – assume they will and help them understand what is and is NOT appropriate when it comes to video chat (or disable the camera). I could go on, but so happy you got this discussion going.

    I also read “Ask Marian” which is a blogger that works for Symantec and talks about online security and safety for kids and families.
    http://community.norton.com/t5/blogs/blogpage/blog-id/askmarian

  17. So parents have to actually talk to their own children now? This is America. Only queers and hippies talk to their kids. Must be that Obama guy’s fault. Did you know he’s a secret muslin?

  18. So parents have to actually talk to their own children now? This is America. Only queers and hippies talk to their kids. Must be that Obama guy’s fault. Did you know he’s a secret muslin?

  19. Thanks for the article, I agree with all the commenters that say it’s important to be involved in your children’s lives–not just talking TO them but WITH them.

    What I think will be interesting, is the current generation of tweeners and 20-somethings having to explain all their online “appearances” to their kids.
    Think about it:
    “Mommy, what are Girls Gone Wild?”, “Daddy, who is Michael Phelps and what is that you are handing him?”

Comments are closed.