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How can I Protect My Child?

pro_fil_arrow1_blank Understanding Maturity and Vulnerability
pro_fil_arrow2_blank Setting Rules for Internet Use
pro_fil_arrow3 Filtering and Monitoring: Tools for Safety
Tools for Safety
pro_fil_arrow4_blank Something Happened! Now What?
pro_fil_arrow5_blank Reporting an Incident
pro_fil_arrow6_blank Schools, Libraries, and the Community

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Unlike filtering, which is a prevention strategy, monitoring relies on deterrence and the possibility that a child misbehaving on the Internet will be caught. Monitoring technologies allow parents to surreptitiously or openly track their children’s Internet activities. There are different types of monitoring tools that a parent can use.

Pros and Cons
With monitoring, your children won’t miss out on legitimate Web content, which can be mistakenly screened out by filters. You’ll also know what they’re up to online, but you won’t be able to stop specific material from reaching them. Monitoring conducted within the proper framework of age-appropriate guidance, however, might help reinforce lessons taught, provide opportunities for further teaching, and allow children to learn how to make their own sound choices. Increased responsibility can lead to increased maturity—and that can translate to peace of mind when you’re not around.

If you decide to monitor, be aware of some sensitive parent–child trust issues.

Types of Monitoring Tools
There are simple technological ways to monitor your child’s Internet use and to review incoming and outgoing e-mail, instant messages, and chat-room dialogues, accessed Web sites, and so on. Here are some examples:

  • Browser capabilities: The simplest means of monitoring are built into your computer’s browser or operating system:

    • History: Major browsers have a history file that shows recently visited sites within a set timeframe. A typical timeframe is 20 days. You can keep track of your child’s online activities this way, but remember that a savvy kid might know how to erase the history file with just a click or even forge a history file with innocuous entries.

    • Cache: Most browsers make use of a temporary “cache” that contains images that were previously displayed on a screen. You can inspect the cache to see what your child might have seen. Parents should know that the cache can be erased.

    • Cookies: Cookie fields can show sites where children have interacted, as well as show who has received information from them. On most computers, you can search for a file called “cookies.” But, as with history and cache, a child who knows what to do can selectively edit (erase) cookie files.

  • Keystroke software: There are devices and programs that can capture all of the keystrokes made by a child, allowing parents to view everything that’s been typed.

  • Screen monitoring: The workstation of a supervising adult, such as a teacher or librarian, can be set up to capture and display the contents of a child’s monitor in real time.

For more details on specific monitoring tools, visit

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Parent–Child Trust
If you plan to monitor your children’s online behavior, you’ll have to decide whether they’re going to know about it. Not telling them might help you learn about what’s going on when you’re not around. But if your children find out, there could be serious consequences. They might feel that their privacy has been invaded and that you don’t trust them. This might, in turn, make them less willing to trust you. Lines of communication—increasingly important as children get older—could shut down.

If you decide to monitor surreptitiously, how will you bring up something that, technically, you’re not supposed to know about? You could have a general discussion about Internet behavior without divulging what you know or how you found out. But what if your child denies having done anything wrong or tells you that he or she already knows all about the dangers of the Internet? These are issues that you should think through carefully.

An alternative is to openly monitor your children’s online activities. Tell them about your plans to monitor, but also run through the surfing rules that you’ve set up for them so that they feel involved. Remember, also, that monitoring used in conjunction with punishment is not likely to work in the long run. Your children can simply learn how to evade your efforts.

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Filtering And Monitoring: Tools for Safety