Children and Internet Access

Many parents have concerns about their children and internet access, and I am no exception.

A number of people have expressed problems and issues related to their children internet access, and have asked me for recommendations. I have been looking into this for a while, and have indicated below what I am currently using, and some of my opinions.

My current goals and recommendations, geared for preteens:

Goal Recommendation
1. prevent access to inappropriate web sites SafeEyes
2. block instant messaging and chatrooms SafeEyes
3. monitor email computer in family room
4. block spam email Eudora: white list filters
Outlook/Outlook Express: ZapASpam

For items 1 and 2, I have chosen SafeEyes. This is a server-based application that costs $50 per year. It acts as a buffer between your computer and the internet, and in particular, prevents access to the internet if it is inactive. You can control what kinds of sites you want to prevent access to via a supervisor account. It also keeps detailed logs of all internet activity, so you can see what sites were accessed and so on. These logs can be stored on the computer itself, or on the SafeEyes server (which allows you to view the logs from any computer with Internet access). The other strong feature of this program is that it monitors time spent on the internet. You can control when the computer can be used, and for how long. This can be a very important feature with older preteens and teenagers.

I looked at a variety of other applications: NetNanny, CyberSitter, etc., but SafeEyes has features I like: server-driven, visible yet difficult to eliminate, good filtering.

For item 3, I have located the computer in a shared room, not a private bedroom. While no one is looking over the shoulder as emails are written, there is no expectation on the child’s part of complete privacy.

For item 4, I use Eudora email, and I have implemented a white list filtering system. This means that only emails with addresses in the address book are received. All others are deleted – not put into a spam or junk folder – simply deleted. This was a bit tricky to configure – instructions are here.

If you use Outlook, then the best product that I saw was ZapASpam. It also uses a “white list” concept – only those emails with addresses on your list are received. It goes out and checks email and deletes ones you don’t want before they get to the Outlook inbox. I did not actually try it, because I use Eudora for email.

Other email control programs that looked good:

Kidmail.net – With this, you create an email account for your child, say “john@kidmail.net”, and then all email comes first to you. You can then choose if you want to relay it on to your child. I would use this if I felt a problem was developing, and casual monitoring was proving insufficient. The Kidmail program they provide seems a lot more kid-friendly than Outlook or Eudora. I haven’t tried this system, but it looks good. $30 per year.

Safe2Read – This is similar to Kidmail, but without the kid-oriented email program. Again, I haven’t tried it, but it also looks good. $18 per year.

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