Anarchitect writes "My step-daughter is almost 11 and, though she's only with her mother and me every other weekend, I would like to provide her with (relatively) unfettered 'net access. Since we all know that the CyberPatrols suck, both technically and ethically, what's the best solution for me (as a part-time parent) to keep an eye on her surfing? I'm not interested in blocking her access, only an awareness of what she surfs so that if I find it to be a morally touchy issue, we can discuss it. Any other parents (or equivalents) who have found a good solution for this?" For starters, Salon's article on censorship and kids, The Morality Police, is a must-read.
"She will be using a Mac, so I s'pose Apple's KidSafe is an option, but I'm not really keen on the concept - seems a little too limiting - kinda like going to the library and only having access to the encyclopedias. Any ideas?"
Jamie wanted to add a few comments:
Yes, KidSafe is a whitelist. Basically you'd be allowing access only to a carefully chosen, tiny fraction of the web. It's exactly like going to the library and only being able to look at the reference section.
If that's what you want and that's all your child is ready for, I can't see any problem with this. It's honest because everybody knows what they're getting. When they want out of the sandbox, they'll let you know.
Here are my suggested rules of the road for kids on the internet, basically a 21st century version of "don't take candy from strangers." What do I have wrong, or what did I forget?
* Put the family computer in a family room.
* Be prepared for freaky questions about things seen online -- and let kids know they can ask about anything they see.
* Be prepared in case you learn they are looking at things they shouldn't. Not that this will necessarily happen. But if it does, your gut reaction may not be appropriate -- consider what you'll say.
* Along with that annoying "what'd you do in school today?", try the equally annoying "what'd you find on the internet today?"
* If you use spyware to keep track of what your kids are viewing, let them know. If you don't, let them know you trust them! This is a trust step like the first time they ride a bike past the driveway, or spend overnight at a friend's house. It's your judgement when they're ready.
* When you chat online, you don't know who's on the other end. Even if you've talked with them for a year, you still don't know!
* A rule: never type your last name or your city. (First name and state are OK.) Or, make up a fake name, that can be "who you are" online!
* A very important safety rule: meeting online strangers may be allowed (but mom or dad will be coming along). If kids promise to ask, parents promise to talk it over.
* When you're looking for something, use the Google search engine. (Among its other benefits, it's the most kid-friendly.) Always start your search with at least three words. Any fewer, and you're probably just wasting your time. Parents can help you learn how to pick three good words.