This post is a little of topic from what I usually write but for me it’s something important so I hope you forgive me. In May 2009 I became a father to a little girl who means the world to me. A post on the Cisco Portal blog got me thinking about security from a different point of view. Security at home. The internet has provided us with so much good. We can get information, access our bank and get news 24/7 . But it has it’s dark sides also. When I was young my parents knew that once I was home I was safe. I had my safe haven inside my parents house where no one could get to me.
The Internet with all it’s glory also opened a gateway to our homes for the predators. Following the news you read almost weekly about police shutting down large pedophile groups, and that’s a good thing. Law enforcement units are able to hunt them down using the networks. But just as the good guys use the networks to find them, the bad guys use the networks to share their sick and twisted materials.
How do we protect our children from this?
I know the most effective ways are to, from a young age, teach them how to behave in social medias etc. But does it protect them enough. I don’t think so!
If you work as a systems administrator and have the privilege of watching firewall logs you’ll know what I know. Even if there is a company policy saying you can’t do this or can’t do that, people will still do it if you don’t prevent it. And you need to remember these are adults, so do we expect our children to follow these rules without ever crossing lines. I hope your not that blind, because they will.
So how do we protect them, the most secure way might be to sit the sessions with them, but that’s never going to work. My daughter is only 6 months so I don’t expect to know everything yet but I’m guessing someone with a teenage daughter trying to sit with them while they chat with their friends would hear a lot of *unfriendly* words. Correct me if I’m wrong.
The same goes to using spy software, not to mention in some countries it’s illegal.
There are also many devices children use. They use cell phones, computers, PSP, MP3 players, Nintendo’s, Playstation’s, Xboxes and many more. Most of them able to connect to the internet.
Using proxy services and firewalls
We can block access to certain sites or allow access to only certain sites using proxies. And blocking every port and protocol except the ones needed for the proxy will effectively shut down any attempts made to chat with software like MSN, ICQ etc. But doing something like that do we also restrict our children from learning? Where does the line between security and paranoia go? Also I don’t expect every parent out there to sit at home and configure proxy services and firewalls. It’s just to hard for the masses.
Apple OS X does include really easy to setup services to some protection. Like blocking adult sites, allowing use of only a few software’s, usage time and bedtime. This is a great idea but at the same time it does need configuration. But unlike firewalls and proxies, OS X is like any Apple product easy to use.
Here you can see some of the settings.
If you know of software’s like this for other platforms like Microsoft Windows, Linux, Symbian, Windows Mobile, iPhone OS, Android etc let me know. I’ll try to test as many as I can and post the test results on this blog in a future post.
Trust your children
Should we just trust them to make the right decision when confronted with a choice? Yes and no is my answer. There is no way we can ever protect our children from everything bad out there. We should also let them do their own mistakes. As we did when we were young.
We do need to follow closely on behavior and patterns since we have the web working against us. And we need to know what’s going on by *knowing* our children. Not by spying on them! Create a relationship based on trust and teach them how to behave online just as you teach them how to behave in real life. The web isn’t that different from the real life. I’m guessing the hardest part is to get your child to trust you enough to be open about what’s going on in his/her life. And internet or not, that’s called parenting.
Are you a parent? Have you been thinking about this? Please comment. How did you solve the problem, or do you trust your child to make the right decision?
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