Safeguard Your Grandchildren
It seems like such an innocent request: Can I use your computer? But before you let your grandchild log-on, you need to think about a few safety precautions -- for their protection and yours.
There are significant risks in letting a child use your computer unsupervised, especially if it's connected to the Internet. The social nature of the web means that strangers can contact them via
e-mail, instant message, or chat room and ask for sensitive personal information or arrange an in-person meeting.
Precaution #1: Create A Guest User Account
This is for your protection. You'll want to password-protect your log-in, so inquisitive users can't access personal data stored in financial software, bank or brokerage accounts, legal documents
or e-mail accounts. It's simple to create a guest account on a Windows PC from the Control Panel: Select 'User Accounts' and create a separate user account for young guests.
Precaution #2: Online Or Off?
A quick way to remove much of the risk from your computer is to simply disconnect it from the internet and use it as a gaming station. You'll need to invest in age-appropriate CD-ROM games; check out Children's Software from www.amazon.com or titles reviewed by Children's Software Review. If your grandchild is an infrequent visitor, this may be the easiest and most cost-effective way to go.
Precaution #3: Check With Their Parents
Before you invest in protective monitoring software, check with your son or daughter-in-law and find out what steps they've taken to secure their home computers. Your grandchild may already be
familiar with a certain set of tools, such as a child-friendly browser or filtering program, and it would be easiest to reproduce that setup on your machine.
Precaution #4: Have A Conversation
Talk to your grandchildren about what they like to do online, and make sure they understand that personal information should not be given out, even if they're asked directly by someone they 'know'
through the web. Hackers can monitor discussions in social spaces and can also sniff e-mails and web forums. Sophisticated scams can even involve soliciting phone calls or other fishing techniques.
Precaution #5: Install Protective Software
Your son or daughter may have a good suggestion for the software setup that works and that their child is accustomed to. If they have good advice, follow it. If not, it's fairly simple to find
information online about popular parental monitoring and filtering software. A few choices are CyberSitter, NetPurity, ContentWatch, and ChildSafe.
Precaution #6: Surfing Guides
Where do you grandkids like to go online? You can broaden their horizons by directing them to child-safe search engines such as Yahoo!Kids or Ask Jeeves. You can also download a child browser such as Bumpercar for the Mac or KidSplorer for a PC, which automatically limits their access to approved web sites. You can guide them manually as well, visiting sites that offer family-friendly games and educational resources. Try PBS Kids, FactMonster, and the American Library Association's list of Great Web Sites for Kids.
Precaution #7: Stick Around
The best way to safeguard your grandchildren is to be a presence while they are online. Check in with them regularly to see where they've gone, and be within voice distance so you can hear any questions they might ask you. The key is to be readily available, in case they hit a snag but don't want to interrupt their online activities just to check something with you that, most likely, is okay. Stay close and, whenever possible, stay involved.
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